The endlessly fascinating topic of pointe shoes is the next chapter (or two) of this blog. It's such a huge subject in every way that I'll start out with some basic info, and then get into specifics. Please write in with specific questions about things you've always wanted to know about pointe shoes but have never had the chance to ask!
- Every woman in OBT wears pointe shoes every single day and none of the men do (yes, I know, that is verrrry basic information, but sometimes people ask!).
- Our pointe shoes are custom made for us at a factory in London by a company called Freed.
- Each of us goes through dozens and dozens of pairs per season, sometimes hitting 100 pairs or more.
- They're expensive.
- And they don't last very long.
- When they're dead, they go into a graveyard for resale at the OBT boutique (we sign them first).
- These ones are dead (they've been worn out and are too soft to use anymore):
- Here's our shoe "room", which is really an area in the back corner of wardrobe:
The reasons why we have the shoes custom made are several. For one thing, you've often heard that everyone's body is different, everyone's foot is different, and that becomes all the more apparent when you are trying to be expressive and technically proficient with those feet. Pointe shoes do a lot more than just hold us up, they also need to allow us to articulate every bone and joint in our feet, use every muscle and tendon, and jump, turn, stand, run, and balance. If all we had to do was stand there on toe, we could probably use tin cans with padding inside. Therefore, since we're dealing with such specialized footwear and each person's foot has unique characteristics, we all have minutely specific things we want from our pointe shoes. We specify not just size, but the exact measurements of every part of the shoe (down to an eigth of an inch), the type and weight of the shank (that's kind of like the inner sole of the shoe), the shape of the toe box and the tip, the cut of the vamp, even the material of the drawstring.
Because we're so picky and specific in our orders (and not just "we", but every female ballet dancer in the world is this way), the shoes are made by hand by craftsmen with natural materials and fibers that will "breathe" and mold to our feet. There is nothing in the shoes that is synthetic (except maybe the glue): they are made of leather, cardboard, burlap, satin, cotton, and a water-soluble glue. No wood, no metal. The glue is what makes them so hard when they're new, and also what makes them so soft after they're worn (it breaks down with use and sweat, being water-soluble).
The downsides to the handmade shoe are the variations in quality and consistency, and the length of time it takes to produce them. We are picky, picky, picky, but so would you be if you could experience how a pointe shoe can affect your dancing. A shoe can literally allow or prevent a dancer from being able to do certain things, like balance or turn, and a shoe that's wrong in even one small way can cause real physical problems-- not just corns or blisters, but actual injuries. Therefore, we ladies spend endless time discussing our shoes, poring over them, strategizing on how to tweak an order to make them better, agonzing with each other over a bad batch, consoling when a shipment is delayed and rejoicing when they finally come in. It is truly a never-ending subject of interest for us.
Please give me feedback on what else you want to know so I can direct my next post accordingly!