Alison Miller (front) in Stanton Welch's "The Ladies" (Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)

Few things ruin the magic of a performance faster than the sound of loud pointe shoes. "When an audience watches someone dancing, they don't want to hear tap-tap-tap," says Houston Ballet first soloist Allison Miller. Pointe shoe sounds can be distracting to you, too, breaking your concentration and keeping you from getting lost in the moment. So, how can you step more softly? Doing so takes thought and practice, and maybe some changes to your shoes themselves. But it can also help you stand out—quietly.

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Ballet
Ballet Academy East student Stella MacDonald (Erin Baiano)

It's the rite of passage every young ballerina dreams of: getting her first pair of pointe shoes. But it's important to remember that a lot (and we mean a lot) of hard work and technique-honing leads up to this moment—not to mention getting the green light from your teacher. Dance Spirit turned to Jenna Lavin, former Miami City Ballet dancer and principal of the pre-professional division at Ballet Academy East in NYC, for three exercises meant to strengthen, train, and stabilize the muscles you'll be using once you're on pointe.

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Fitness
American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher (left) meeting with Bloch owner David Fox (right) in NYC. (Marius Bugge for Bloch)

For professional ballet dancers, the search for the perfect pointe shoe is a lifelong quest. Even the smallest adjustment in manufacturing can make the difference between a shoe that allows a ballerina to soar and a shoe that detracts from her dancing. So what goes into creating the perfect fit? A lot of hard work, patience, and masterful attention to detail. We got the inside scoop on how a Bloch pointe shoe is made from beginning to end, and went inside one of American Ballet Theatre principal Devon Teuscher's touch-up fittings with Bloch owner David Fox in NYC.

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Ballet
Colorado Ballet principal dancer Dana Benton's first pair of pointe shoes, kid's size 12—with all the darning worn off from dancing around on the carpet at home (courtesy Benton)

The mark of a truly skilled ballerina is her ability to make the pointe shoe look like a part of her body, an extension of her beautifully S-curved leg. It's hard to believe the shoe was ever foreign to her, or that she ever had that awkward first time on pointe. We asked six professional ballerinas to reminisce about that very first pair, and the memories—and photos—they shared are sure to make you smile.

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Ballet
via YouTube

Watching a ballerina customize her pointe shoes will just never get old. Not only is it oddly mesmerizing to watch, but the pros always have some genius tips and hacks to offer. New York City Ballet corps member Olivia Boisson recently sat down with Insider to talk about her pointe-shoe process, and trust us, the video is a must-watch.

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