I went over to my old haunt YouTube tonight and this was on my “Suggestions” page:
Funny how that happens.
This video is 10 years old, but it does explain a bit about how Gaynor Minden came to be and some of the objections to the shoes (I had heard about Merrill Ashley’s outspoken comments previously; here they are on video for all to see).
As a reader commented on a previous post, Mindens do not flatter less-than-curvy feet and they can even make spectacular feet look plain. That is a huge drawback for some ballet aficionados. I know I had to look several times at the feet of one of my favorites, Obraztsova, before deciding if they were one of her many strengths (she is a GM wearer).
It seems odd that as pliable as GMs are, they don’t quite follow the lines of the foot or enhance them in any way. I could never get away with them with my feet, which have what may be politely called a “shallow profile.” However, this doesn’t matter to someone like me. If I ever make it back on pointe I’ll be happy with my Sansha Recitals, which are very conventional pointe shoes (mine didn’t even come with that removable plastic shank Sansha is known for)…and very inexpensive as well.
I leave this argument to serious students and to professionals. It does seem that more and more professionals are taking the stage in the GMs. I’m starting to be able to pick them out from a distance without too much of a problem.
Certainly this represents some financial relief to their companies, and probably also some physical relief to the dancers as it may free them from suffering an excessive number of pointe-related injuries. That’s the positive side.
On the negative side, some people just hate looking at them.
A reader mentioned in a comment that over the years — especially in the last few decades — the ideal ballet foot has changed. Honestly, you didn’t used to be required to have banana feet; all that was required was that you got over the box and didn’t wobble. Have you ever seen Margot Fonteyn’s feet? Sheesh.
The other day I happened upon an ABT program from the early 1980’s, just before Baryshnikov took over as Artistic Director. This was my generation of dancers. All of the principals and soloists were photographed in dance poses; the corps kids were photographed in small groups. You got to look at and compare a lot of feet. My verdict: very few of these dancers would be allowed into ABT these days. Not only is the training better now, but back in the day your average pointe shoe was prettier than your average ballet foot. Nowadays, apparently one is not permitted to have less than curvy feet.
Earlier ballerinas not only didn’t have banana feet, but they didn’t even get over the box, nor did they stand particularly straight (again, this has already been pointed out by a reader). A good example is the following video of Yekaterina Geltzer from 1913. She was the ballerina who kept the ballet fires burning at the Bolshoi after the revolution; prior to that, she had been considered a powerhouse pointe technician. Take a look at this video — most particularly at her pointe technique — and you’ll see what we’re talking about here:
The conclusion I’m drawing is that times change. The eye changes. And certainly, money talks. If these shoes prove to save ballet companies lots of money and dancers lots of injuries, they may be the future of pointe shoes regardless of how they look.