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The Story Behind act'ble & Sophia Lindner's Mission to Revolutionize the Centuries-Old Pointe Shoe

Interview with act'ble's Designer & Founder, Sophia Lindner

"We strive to create better solutions; solutions that grow and enhance a dancer’s ability to perform."

Photo courtesy of act'ble

A former ballet dancer turned designer and act'ble founder, Sophia Lindner has her sights on a pointe shoe revolution. With expertise in industrial design and product design, Sophia has applied her extensive knowledge into revolutionizing the new act’pointe, which enhances performance, backed by science, sports research, and the best-in-class design. With a mission to enable dancers to make a difference in their performance and life, under Sophia’s direction, act'ble is reshaping the future of dance.

Do you recall your first pointe shoe experience?

Sophia Lindner: First of all, it was very exciting! I think the first pointe shoe experience is one of the highlight events you aim for when you dance ballet. I remember that magical moment of trying my first pair; the incredible ability to extend my range of movement en pointe. However, at the same time, it was also the complete opposite: it hurt and felt super unnatural. But as a dancer, you don't question this. You think: It has to be like this.

Having danced 14 years of ballet yourself, when did the inspiration come to redesign and reinvent the centuries-old pointe shoe?

Sophia: As a designer, your eyes are taught to identify problems and create solutions for them, which was what happened during my design studies. It became clear that there is a REAL problem with pointe shoes. When you spend all your time looking at new developments and technologies, it's astounding that the pointe shoe is still so limited in terms of health and performance. There is a beautiful reason why dancers accept all the pain and the health risks they are going through: their absolute passion. But it shouldn’t end up destroying their bodies and feet. I thought it was time to reinvent the pointe shoe and move it in a sustainable direction.

Did you have a negative pointe shoe experience or injury that inspired you to create a different functioning shoe?

Sophia: Yes, of course. If you observe the pointe shoe anatomy, it's evident that the existing shoe can not work in synergy with the foot. Every problem has a reason, which is why we have completely rethought the shoe and its anatomy to create a shoe that adapts to the foot and not the other way around.

Ballet prides itself on conservatism and tradition. In what ways do you think it holds the industry back from new innovations?

Sophia: I understand the value of tradition; how it should be rooted in the dance form itself, not necessarily anchored in a shoe, developed and using the capabilities and technologies of many centuries ago. To gain respect and inspire the next generations, you have to be open to new things, such as always finding the best possible treatment to expand performance and movement possibilities. To me, that doesn't mean destroying traditions. It means taking ballet to the next level to gain credit and respect from other industries; that is what we at act'ble are currently experiencing. We have to build a bridge between the dance world and the world outside of dance. During these last years, we have won numerous awards and got in touch with scientists and experts in medical and manufacturing high-level performance shoes and so on. It happened very often that these experts did not know much about ballet; however, as soon as we told them about the iconic aesthetic and the athleticism of dance, they were more than impressed, developed respect, and wanted to be a part of our journey.

Why do you think there is so much reluctance to challenge the status quo in ballet?

Sophia: It's a good question because it has always been done this way for such a long time. The more time goes by, the more the mindset normalizes itself and the more difficult it becomes to question the status quo.

It’s quite a drastic switch from ballet to industrial design. What is it about design that draws your appeal?

Sophia: Doing what I do now melts two of my biggest passions together: ballet and design. The human body and the movements that it can express have always been an enormous inspiration to me. This topic has always been the basis for my design projects. And I think the human body represents an understanding of proportions and ratios that shapes our aesthetic perception. So having danced ballet for 14 years educated me in that. Movement generates emotions, and great design should achieve the same. Good design can enable quality of life, such as moving things in a more sustainable direction while creating value is a great motivation to me.

In your bachelor thesis, you created the act’pointe prototype (then called React), planting the seed for a revolutionary product and company. Was developing a new pointe shoe the end-plan?

Sophia: At the time, it was a project of the heart; I didn't aim to put it on the market. However, due to the number of positive feedback and motivational messages from dancers, dance medicine experts, and choreographers, it was clear that it had potential. I had to pursue it and develop the project into a viable product for a dancer.

You have an impressive resume. You have maneuvered from product design, architecture, 3D, and prototyping to Audi as an industrial designer intern. It seems like you were carefully selecting and refining the skills you needed to create act’ble. Why was gaining insight and expertise into these specific areas important to the development of the shoe?