A while ago I read this article on the web of S Moda, the fashion suplement of El Pais, a spanish newspaper. It talks about the importance of pointe shoes for ballet dancers and the process of choosing and personalizing pointe shoes. It felt very personal for me; I have been dancing, on and off, since I was 6 years old, with the same teacher.I only stopped when I came to London (call it lazyness, call it having to travel at least half an hour to get anywhere). It is unbelievable how much you get attatched to dancing, to your teacher, to your fellow dancers. It is almost like an addiction and when you have to give it up, it hurts.
I remember the first time I got my first pair of pointe shoes, I was beyond excited, couldn't wait to saw the laces and try them on straight away. Of course, I had no idea how to do that so I went to class the next day and my teacher burst out laughing when she saw the mess I had done. However, they are hard hard work, there is a lot of sweat, tears, blood and ripped skin involved in dancing on pointe, especially the first months. But somehow, all that is bearable just for a few minutes on stage, with your tutu, high bun and pointe shoes, dancing to Tchaikovsky.
I have done my best to translate the article as faithfully as possible and I hope you enjoy it
Life on Tiptoes
New York Ballet spends half a million dollars per year in shoes. A mini documentary explains why.
Brenda Otero / 02 May 2012 / 8:30 H.
They look like vestiges from a fairytale, fancies of dreamy girls. Those pink satin shoes in which ballerinas turn. But more than a beautiful object, they are precision tools. The success of any ballet depends on them. Glory and pain attainers. So fundamental to the ballerinas like wheels to cyclists.
In Pointe Shoes, a mini documentary by Galen Summer explores the tight relationship of the ballerinas with their pointe shoes. The protagonist, Megan Fairchild from New York City Ballet, shows the voyage a ballerina goes through before finding the perfect shoe.
She wore her first pair when she was eleven: "a big occasion for a girl", she tells on the video. Since then, every time a new pair comes to her hands she follows the same procedure: a ritual that precedes the performance and consists in bending the shoes, sewing the laces, grazing the sole, apply resin and bandaging the toes with plaster. To a beginner this might take an hour; the more experienced resolve it in five minutes.
English National Ballet dancer sews her shoes before going on stage
As a principal dancer Fairchild assures the uses a new pair per day. She can be balancing in them up to eight hours every day and needs the maximum support of new pointes. During the season she uses a pair per rehearsal and another one per performance.
Every pair costs to the New York Ballet 67,50 dollars, which by the end of the season entails half a million dollars in shoes. Not even Anna Dello Russo and her 4.000 pairs of heels.
The pointe shoes are custom made by artisans by the specifications of each ballerina. In Freed London, each expert has a symbol: a crown, a key, a club... Tamara Rojo, dancer and new creative director of the English National Ballet, says that they can never personally meet the shoe maker behind the badge.
The pointe shoes have surpassed the confines of the dance world, capturing interest from the fashion industry. Few can resist their charms. The way they enhance the arch of the foot and the combination of simplicity, ingenuousness and coquetry. The nude ballerinas are a classic that still triumphs on the streets everywhere; Repetto, Brigitte Bardot's favourite shoe house, is a super sales brand with prestige beyond the dance world, Courtney Love makes pointe shoes a decorative element and Amy Winehouse used the Freed London originals. They also work hard on stage.
Nobody dare call them tacky