by Emily Starling
Pointe shoes are a type of shoe used by ballerinas across the world and they enable the dancer to dance ‘on their toes’. There are many different makes, some of the most popular being Bloch, Freed and Gaynor Minden. A ballerina chooses the shoe which best suits their foot shape and range of movement of the foot itself.
Like many other types of shoe, pointe shoes must be broken in before they are worn but, rather than for comfort, this is a must for dancers in order for them to be able to perform at their best.
There are many ways of doing this some working better for certain dancers than others but in my opinion there are two stages to this process:
Making the sole flexible.
Manipulation of the toe section.
The sole must be flexible so the ballet dancer can perform all her moves to the best of her ability as well as being aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The toe section must be manipulated so the whole foot can be used with ease.
I personally use my hands to make the sole supple, having had years of experiencing different types of shoe and how the shoe feels on my foot I know to which degree I can bend them in order for me to execute all my movements with precision. This for me is the quickest and easiest method.
Manipulating the toe section is more time consuming and requires the shoe to actually be on the foot. Normally a couple of nights before I will wear them I place them in a warm place such as the airing cupboard. Then the night before I put them on and walk around my house for 15 – 20 minutes on demi pointe and do slow rises until I am happy that I can get from demi pointe to full pointe and back again with ease. The enables my feet to move freely–as close to how they would feel in flat shoes as possible. Finally, I place them back in the airing cupboard overnight so as not to undo the work I have done with them.
About the dancer: Emily Starling is 20 years old from Essex, England. She has recently graduated from Bird College in Kent, with a Diploma in Musical Theatre. Predominantly ballet-trained, Emily has been a member of Chelmsford Ballet Company for 9 years, and has recently become an Associate of the Royal Academy of Dance in London.
Stay tuned for more dancers talking about how they break in their pointe shoes as we continue our “focus on pointe” this month!