The Horror of Passion
Some stories just need to be shared. A sneak peak behind the beauty, about dancer’s perseverance, despair and starting over new. Be inspired…..
Dancing on pointes: it’s every ballet girl’s dream. You will look incredibly graceful with those ribbons wrapped around your ankles. And your legs look twice as long, which elongates your dance lines to the max. Indeed ballet is artistically as well as physically quite demanding, but dancing on pointe shoes reveals a pirouette as pure art. Still, dancing on the tip of your toes is objectively considered a true torture for your feet and ankles.
So every ballerina does have her own horror story about dancing on pointes. For example Alexandra Radius, who is now retired after a long and beautiful career as a soloist at the Dutch National Ballet. She struggled with a nasty infection of her foot, caused by the pressure of her pointe shoe. But Radius just had to dance, no matter what. So when her foot became extremely swollen due to the infection while touring, she squirmed her tortured foot in a tiny flat ballet shoe, put an even smaller size over the first one and then pressed all into her pointe shoe. Then she kept pounding her foot on the floor until completely numb – and gave a beautiful performance! This is one of many painful examples such as bleeding toes, blue nails, infections, ankle problems and deformations of the foot, as a result of the relentless ballet passion.
Why do dancers do this? Because “pain” comes with the package? As a proof of dedication, perseverance and ambition? Perhaps because the pain of dancing on pointe shoes connects you to a magical history, it belongs to classical ballet.
It is no secret that the search for “the perfect pointes” can sometimes take years. Because in addition to your on-going physical progress, you have to make a choice between a large number of variables such as stiffness of the shank, shape, width, heel, side etc. And after the ultimate combination seems to have been found, many dancers tackle their brand-new ‘beauties’ with hammers, pliers and knives to prevent as much discomfort as possible while dancing. Subsequently, attaching the ribbons and elastic is also often a meditative job for ballerinas.
Tradition or Innovation
The choice between the different pointed brands could roughly be divided into two types. Many professionals opt for traditional manufacturers such as Grishko or Freed of London. Both brands have an impressive long history, in which essentially the traditional construction, comfort and support level has not changed. For the most part, these pointes are made of natural materials: leather for the sole, papier-mâché, glue and glossy satin for the shoe. These little masterpieces are manufactured by hand and every point shoe maker has his own mark. Very special, but …. they remain torture tools for the foot.
A relative newcomer to this market is the American brand Gaynor Minden. Dance amateur Eliza Minden thought that the dance world should take an example from the professional sport, with on-going research to optimize footwear. Minden developed, together with scientists and ballerinas, pointe shoes made of synthetic materials, with a shock-absorbing foam layer at the tip and under the heel. The sole of Gaynor Minden pointed is made of unbreakable polystyrene and is flexible from the first step without breaking in, and the shoe lasts longer. Unfortunately also on Gaynor’s you don’t dance without pain. But we always have ouch-pouches, right?
At first the ballet world did not respond well to the synthetic innovation. The pointe shoes with polystyrene sole initially where called the “cheater shoes” thinking dancers would need less muscle power to come “on point”. Yet the innovative design appears to be a good and sustainable base even for beginners, provided that the classical dance technique is well taught. Also personal preferences will always play a role when choosing point shoes. For example, with the Dutch National Ballet about half of the dancers dance on classical pointes, the other half dances on the polystyrene pointes.
Perhaps the most important innovation is the increasing awareness that even as an amateur or adult starter you can fulfil your Ballet passion!
Because currently there are more and more options, that match any development level. Take a look at the wonderful initiative of former soloist Alexander Zhembrovskyy. At Studio Zhembrovskyy the lessons are given by dancers from the National Ballet. And yes, that includes pointed lessons for adults, from beginners to advanced!
Thus you may find yourself able to fulfil your long hearted wish and buy your first pair of pointe shoes! Or would you like to try another brand? Then have a look at Gaynor Minden, Freed of London and Grishko. And if you would love a little help while wandering around in the wonderful world of pointe-brands, please feel free to send us your questions, we are happy to help with objective advice.
And for instant relief of your feet with a new pair of soft ballet shoes, have a look at the professional collection by Grishko for BALLETONIST. A premium collection of innovative classic and modern “ballet flats”. Here you can immediately choose the perfect colour to complete your dance outfit, with sophisticated black, contemporary natural, or the all-time classic in ballet rose. Success guaranteed!
Please feel free to contact us for any questions you may have.