Young Scientist project examines dance damage to feet

Hannah Piggott and Hannah Devitt from Seamount College Kinvara and their BT young Scientist project into the effects of "en point" on feet . Photo:Andrew Downes.

The beauty of ballet to the beholder is often balanced by the torture of getting up onto the tops of your toes – but the level of pain involved in putting your best foot forward was what sufficiently pricked the interest of two Galway ballerinas to turn it into a scientific study.

Now Hannah Piggott and Hannah Devitt of Seamount College in Kinvara – guided by their teacher Joanne Martin – are preparing for this week’s 52nd BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition at the RDS in Dublin.

Both Hannahs are Grade 7 student ballerinas with the Corrib Dance Academy in Galway city.

For the past three years, they have been dancing ‘En Pointe’ – on the tips of your toes wearing pointe shoes – and although it looks beautiful, they found it can cause great pain to many dancers.

“We were surprised at just how much pain there was and even more at how much the level of pain differed between students,” they said.

The Transition Year students decided to dig a little deeper and – with a project entitled Foot Shape and Motion in Ballerinas En Pointe – they specifically focused on teenage ballerinas who dance En Pointe on a regular basis.

“We used a series of measurements and tests, which we could carry out easily on our fellow students,” they explained.

“We are trying to better understand the reasons for different pain patterns in the feet of ballerina and how the spectrum of toe and arch shapes in our ballet class impact that pain. We are looking at foot shape pre and post dancing en pointe to establish if there is a relationship between foot pain and foot shape,” they added.