Tools of the trade: Ballet #8 – Rosin

by Henrik on May 26, 2010

Rosin is a transparent or translucent mass, made from the a hydrocarbon secretion of many plants, commonly the pine tree, called Resin.

Not getting it? No problem.

Rosin is used by ballet dancers for a better grip

Do you know that secrete that you find on tree-chumps, that sticky, sometimes gummy orange something that nobody really know why’s there? That’s resin. We don’t really no why plants and trees make it, but we are happy they do – resin is used in many labs for its’s chemical constituents, it’s used in incenses, perfumes, it’s even an important material in nail polish and bowling balls!

But hold on – isn’t this tools of the trade: Ballet? Yes indeed – I’m getting there.

Rosin (mind the vowel) is a solid form of the natural resin – the yellow stuff coming out from the trees. It has been undergoing some distillation to get rid of terpene components, and is mostly known for the use to the bows of any stringed instrument (like the violin, for example) because it adds friction to the hairs of the bow, hence increasing the vibration of the strings, giving a stronger sound.

But let’s get to the ballet dancers, shall we?

Whenever the linoleum floor (or other floors, for that matter) is to slippery for the dancer, he applies crushed rosin to his shoes. The rosin adds friction between the shoe and the floor – just like it adds friction between the bow and the strings of the violin, hence increasing the grip of the feet. That gives us the opportunity to perform the jumps and moves we need to do, without worrying that our feet will slip while dancing.

a picture by Paul Pomeroy of a dancer applying rosin to her shoes

Dancer putting rosin on her shoes. © Paul Pomeroy. All rights reserved

Crushed rosin is found in all major theaters stages and ballet-studios. Usually, it is divided onto a tray of some kind, so that the dancer can just easily step onto the tray, and voila, the shoes are covered with a thin layer of rosin.

And that’s really all there is to it. It might not seem as a big deal, but there are dancers that refuses to dance without applying rosin to their (pointe)shoes. It is just one of those things we use, that might not be as commonly known outside our world. It just one of those Tools of the trade…

Picture used with permission from it’s owner, Paul Pomeroy. All rights reserved. Check out his great photographies!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

John Smith March 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I think trees make resin because it helps to repair damage. We have a big (cherry blossom?) tree that’s too close to the house. If you cut through a big branch in the course of hours, it cuts through cleanly, as if it were a piece of wood from the lumberyard. If you cut through that branch over the course of days or weeks, when you go back after those first few inches have been cut, you’ll find that the tree branch is exuding what is basically rubber–the resin you’re describing. It’s gummy, sticky, messy, and I think it impregnates all of the plant tissue near where you’ve been cutting, meaning that any further sawing is much more difficult than that first bit of clean sawing.

The tree can, in fact, cement itself back together. You can cut almost entirely through a large branch or even possibly the trunk of a tree, and over time the tree will heal itself.

Reply

Henrik March 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

I know, rosin is pretty amazing :)
Not to mention, it makes us stick to those slippery floors :)

Reply

Melissa December 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Hi I am a student dancer and just got pointe shoes not long ago. And I was wondering where can you get rosin?

Reply

Henrik January 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Hi Melissa,
You can buy rosin in most hardware stores, or big warehouses that sells tools and material. Also, most bigger ballet-shops sells small portions of rosin, but it’s way more expensive to buy it that way, though… :) Good luck on pointe :) H

Reply

Amy January 22, 2012 at 3:47 am

Do male dancers or dancers in flat shoes ever use rosin?

Reply

Henrik January 22, 2012 at 11:48 am

yes, all the time, for increased friction to the floor, especially if it is slippery. Also female dancers tend to use rosin when dancing on flat shoes. Then, theres also those who never use it :)

Reply

Melissa February 27, 2012 at 5:10 am

Hi me again :P i’ve heard that rosin makes tap shoes slippery do you know if this is true? If not it’s okay I know you don’t take tap.

Reply

Henrik February 27, 2012 at 8:46 am

Hi Melissa,
Honestly, I have really little experience with tap shoes, I wouldn’t know… But I can imagine it’s true, given that the metal surface of the tap sole doesn’t gain friction to a linoleum floor in the same way a textile will.. I know studios designed specially for tap and ballroom dances are using wooden floors rather than linoleum for this reason – the wood provides a rougher surface with more friction, which is good when you use hard soled shoes.. Maybe some of my readers knows a better answer to your question?? Guys? :)

Reply

Heather V.I. July 15, 2012 at 8:45 pm

We actually used rosin when we performed in all types of shoes on an unfamiliar stage. (it was some type of metal)
It did help prevent us from slipping

Reply

isabella bunhead August 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I use my violin rosin for my pointed shoes and it works fine.

Reply

Daniel February 19, 2013 at 3:12 am

Hey, there! I added felt to the bottom of the soles of my jazz shoes because I need to do a triple for a dance and the studio I’m practicing in has a marley floor. The only issue is, I go to a studio where the floor is extremely slippery and hateful. My question is, is rosin the end-all-be-all? Because they do not allow rosin at the studio at all.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: