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Prosthetic Leg Allows Amputee Dancers to Dance on Pointe

    People living with limb loss can do anything—biking, running, hiking, and climbing—especially with activity-specific prosthetic equipment and patience. Now, former ballet dancers and those who are interested in ballet can dance with the Marie-T, a prosthetic leg that enhances the performance of amputee ballet dancers.

     A prosthetic leg designed by Jae-Hyun An allows ballet dancers to dance on pointe.

    The leg is designed by Jae-Hyun An, an Industrial Design graduate at the Pratt Institute. The leg features a foot that is on pointe all the time. It has a rubber grip and stainless-steel toe, providing dancers with momentum and balance during rotations.

    The carbon-fiber leg is named after Marie Taglioni, a 19th-century Swedish ballerina. As the Marie-T is on pointe all the time, amputee dancers will be able to dance on pointe throughout a performance, which can never be achieved by mainstream ballet dancers.

    The pointe position requires the toes and fully extended feet within pointe shoes to support the dancer's body weight. Dancers move in and out of this position because it puts a tremendous strain on the performer's ankles and feet. Therefore, a ballet dancer can't be in this position during the entire performance. 

    With the Marie-T, An hopes amputee dancers will be inspired to develop unique choreography that mainstream ballerinas couldn't do.

    An also designed the prosthetic leg with a stable and robust ankle area, helping dancers stay in balance. In contrast, a weak ankle can twist and make a dancer in pointe position wobble.

    If parts of Marie-T need to be resized or become well-worn, users can easily switch them out. An designed the leg this way, so the dancers don't have to deal with blisters and rashes caused by an ill-fitting prosthetic leg. 

    In an interview with Dezeen, an architecture and design magazine, An mentioned he was inspired by Viktoria Modesta and how she re-interpreted performance using her prosthetic leg. He described it as "visually powerful." Because of her, An felt inspired to design something that could expand the arts and culture scene to include a community of prosthetic users.  

    To move the project forward, An hopes to work with an amputee dancer. According to An, the prosthetic design will change to fit the dancer and match the movements of the choreography.