A Pittsburgh Pointe Mystery

By: Debra Schreiber/Pittsburgh

Steel is what shaped the early culture of the Pittsburgh area. The Carrie Furnace is a piece of that heritage still standing. It has now also become a part of Pittsburgh’s art history.

Ron Baraff, Director of Museum Collections & Archives at Rivers of Steel, gives tours of the Carrie Furnace and can authorize use of the site. Oftentimes, he said in a telephone interview, people decided to visit the site on their own.

Mysterious pointe shoes at the Carrie Furnace - where did they come from?/Photo Credit Debra Schreiber

While at the Carrie Furnace one day last spring, Baraff noticed a pair of pointe shoes hanging down by the now infamous deer sculpture, “Deer Head” which was made from material found at the Carrie Furnace. The shoes were a mystery to him.

“I was like what are these doing here?” Baraff explained. It is now assumed the shoes were left behind by a dancer who had done a video shoot on site.

But then came a second pair.

Maria Caruso, founder and director of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet, did a photo shoot at the Carrie Furnace for the dance production of “Eyes Wide Open.” The idea behind the production was to parallel science and movement. The show took the audience through four seasons, each season showing three photographs. The Carrie Furnace photos were used at the end of the piece.


Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios


Other photos of the dancers at the Carrie Furnace were used as PR for the performance, and showed, “the dancer come alive there [at the Carrie Furnace],” said Caruso in a telephone interview.

Caruso is a Pittsburgh native. Her family were coalminers. She described the Carrie Furnace as, “so well preserved. It really comes to life.” She liked the idea of shooting there and appreciated the richness of history contained at the site.

Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios

The first pair of pointe shoes was gone when they came back to the site, she said.

Before Caruso left the site she told Baraff that she had left a present for him. When he asked her what it was, she replied, “You’ll see.” It was the second pair.

“It took me a couple of days to realize they were there,” Baraff said.

When asked why she left the pointe shoes there, Caruso explained that at the Carrie Furnace, “You can find articles of the past. It’s so cool to see how the artist did the deer. Everyone who goes there has an opportunity to leave a mark.” The pointe shoes, and a pair of high heels she wore, were hers.

“It’s great to be a part of the Pittsburgh cultural language,” Caruso said.

Photo by Eric Rose of Mysterion Studios

Anyone interested in visiting the Carrie Furnace, part of the former U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works,  where, according to Rivers of Steel, “at one time, the furnaces and the steelworkers who labored in them produced more than 1,000 tons of iron a day,” should contact Rivers of Steel at (412)-464-4020 or info@riversofsteel.com.  Tourists will learn about the steel-making process, walk through the well-maintained furnace, and view the “Deer Head” and maybe even the point shoes.

Anyone interested in Bodiography, a contemporary ballet company that brings movements to life through pointe, should contact the studio at (412)-521-6094 or info@bodiographycbc.com.