The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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A catty pointe shoe moment (again, lol) December 8, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 3:49 am

I’m in the process of watching a video by an adult dancer who seems to have at least 10 to 15 pairs of pointe shoes, most of them not broken in because they don’t fit her in one way or another (too wide, vamp too high, etc.).  She claimed she was fitted for some of these shoes; somehow I rather doubt it unless her local fitter needs to find a new profession.

I won’t share her channel’s name, nor the video, because I don’t want to shame someone who just enjoys ballet and is an adult who can make her own decisions.  (If this were a kid, I’d be livid.)  However, I think there are a lot of unintentional points brought out by her video that should be discussed.

Thing is, her feet do not appear to be strong (although she swears in another video that her teachers tell her they are); she does not or cannot point them hard enough, and that may be partially because her ankles may not be flexible enough to support pointe work.  No matter which shoe she demonstrated, she was not getting over the box — or if she was, she was knuckling and/or there were gaps showing around the wings and wrinkling at the heel.  Dude, that kind of stuff can be dangerous.  For me this leads to the question of whether her teachers are advising her properly.  There are, after all, people whose feet and ankles simply won’t allow them to dance on pointe, and for a student and enthusiast, that’s okay.  Ballet didn’t start out with pointe anyway.  It’s okay to concentrate on building other sterling qualities in your dancing.

Of course if this person is really that determined, there’s always Patricia McBride to look to for inspiration.  Her feet were among the worst I’ve ever seen; she was always knuckling.  As a kid I called her “Hookfoot.”  As I remember, Patricia stated that she CHOSE to stand this way and chided fellow dancers for not having the “strength and control” to use their feet the way she did.  And her career lasted a long time, and her feet became integral to her art.  (Menzentseva was another one like that; of course there’s also Margot Fonteyn, but her feet were, at least, held straight during the early part of her career.)

Back to the point, this YouTuber also complained repeatedly about various shoes being “too hard.”  If she was talking about the box, that’s usually easily remedied in all shoes but Gaynors. Just do what we used to do in the days of old: pour rubbing alcohol over them while standing in the shower (without the water on — water will stain pointe shoe satin); or else while standing on a towel.  They’ll soften up and mold to your feet fast, although with some brands the paste may feel a bit crunchy once it dries.  Or else hammer them or slam them in a door.  (She said in another video that she’s done all this stuff…okay…)

This issue is hard for me to understand, because frankly the only conventional shoe I ever owned that had a box that wouldn’t soften was Sansha Recital.  Never had an issue with any other brand.

What else mystifies me is…well, there are lots of things.  One of them is why she bought four pairs of Freeds.  I’ve never had Freeds, but I’ve seen them up close.  They’re really the prettiest of all pointe shoes, real fairy-tale princess shoes.  But they are also considered “big girl shoes” for fully developed dancer’s feet.  For instance, the angle of the platform is difficult for many dancers.  That’s because Freeds — at least the stock variety — seem to demand perfect feet…not necessarily banana feet, but strong feet and flexible ankles.  This woman did not appear to have anything close to that, so of course she was unhappy with her Freeds.  But she had bought four pairs of them for whatever reason. One pair was custom, and still didn’t fit her.

Again, this is an adult, so the way she spends her money is none of my concern.  And I certainly understand about collecting pointe shoes — I’ve done it myself.   Pointe shoes are beautiful and fascinating even if you don’t dance in them.  But to keep buying Grishkos and Freeds when they make you miserable, and getting two pairs of Gaynors with a #4 box when you needed a #3….I don’t get it.

Anyway, she closed both videos with really defensive rants about how it’s her business how she spends her money, etc.  Of course it is.  Can’t argue there.  And I know how nasty some YouTube commenters can be; I’ve taken preventive steps to shut them down in the past.

But to take a shortcut to pointe shoe happiness, perhaps consider investing in a little more foot strength training, or perhaps asking your teachers if your ankle inflexibility is enough to prevent you from dancing on pointe at all, (or if it’s okay to dance on pointe with caution, never leaving the barre, since you’ll never be a professional anyway).  Also learn what your foot shape is.  For example, I’ll wager that very few dancers have large numbers of both Grishkos and Blochs in their collections, and there’s a reason for that: Grishkos tend to be tapered and Blochs tend to be squared.  Although this is certainly not true of all of the models in each manufacturer’s line, it was absolutely true of some of the models from each line that she owned.  If you’re buying online, good vendors will tell you that information in the product description.  If you’re being fitted in person, the fitter should know.

In the long run all this can save money even if you do buy most of your shoes at bargain prices on Ebay, because at least you’ll know exactly what to get.

It’s a thought.

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