Pointe shoes, there's seems to be something almost magical to them, turning ordinary girls into beautiful princesses that dance, spin, and gracefully leap through the air. Conversely, there are the horror stories told, of deformed, bloodied, and blistered feet that suffer in these devices of torture. The first pair of pointe shoes for a young dancer is a rite of passage, full of excitement and pride. Of course, it's not the shoes that turn ordinary girls into beautiful dancing princesses- just a whole lot of hard work and discipline. My daughter tells me that yes, the shoes do hurt, but not that bad. She was preparing a new pair of pointe shoes to wear this weekend and I watched, fascinated by all the steps she took to customize her shoes. I asked her if she would let me write about it.
When Grace first started dancing en pointe, I would get so nervous when I'd see her altering her shoes. They're expensive and they need to be replaced often. I just didn't want to have to replace her shoes any sooner than necessary. Now, I just watch with that special kind of pride that any parent has when they realize that the child is the expert, not them.
The first thing Grace does to a new pair of pointe shoes is to rip out the suede insole. Then she covers the shank with duck tape. She says that this helps the shoes last longer. The suede absorbs sweat and shrinks the shoes. She also puts jet glue at the tip of the toe box- again, to help them last longer. Then she sews on the elastics and the ribbons. Finally, she breaks in the shoes by banging them hard on a table. Some girls will actually slam their shoes in a door frame to break them in. This is the part that always confuses me. They need new shoes because they break down and get "floppy", but the first thing they do is smash them up! But I'm not a dancer, so some of this stuff will always be a mystery to me. They know what they're doing.
These are just some of the tools that go inside the shoes. There's also tape, band-aids, and corn pads. It used to take Grace a long time to put on her pointe shoes, now she's pretty fast.