the trouble with pointe shoes

June 4, 2010 at 7:42 pm Leave a comment

I think one of the greatest tragedies involving pointe shoes is the fact that the first thing you must do with your pretty new satin shoes is take them outside and beat them up.  They look so fresh and new; the satin is clean – and then you march outside and scuff them up on the concrete to rip the satin on the toes so you don’t slip when you try to dance.  Or you take sandpaper to them; it’s the same effect.

Either way, it’s sad. 

I’m pretty sure the other tragedy is that dancers can’t have pretty feet.  The two are antithetical.  The candy-pink toenail polish gets pulled off by the gel pads worn under pointe shoes; and callouses and blisters come along with the territory. 

That’s sad too.

But tonight is the dance concert, so I will try to forget about my poor toes and new shoes (which aren’t comfortably broken in yet….which will be interesting) and dance.  And in honor of this event (which the four-year-old is terribly excited about; she’s dancing too), I’m going to try to give you a little picture of what it’s like to dance in a liturgical dance choir at church.  The following is an exerpt from a creative non-fiction piece I wrote this past semester at school:

“I’m overwhelmed, as I am every week, by the community and the fellowship that is this dance choir. These women and girls have become a safety net for me, giving me loving support at every turn. We are a community of faith, lifting each other up in prayer and unafraid to take God at His word when we pray. In fact, the focus here isn’t on dance at all; dance is merely the channel through which we build this community of unconditional love and acceptance. And in dancing with these women, I understand what it means to make dance sacred, to take the beautiful art form that it is and make it so much more. It’s not about the pretty moves or the perfect bodies, they remind me, it’s about using our bodies and gifts to tell a story and illustrate a song, to simply honor our God.
Pointe shoes feel like a kind of initiation to me – a rite-of-passage proving that I belong here, that I really am a woman and I really am a dancer. The privilege of dancing in them is not given lightly, for you must earn them and prove both that you are strong enough and old enough to join the company of girls on pointe. And as I hold my first pair, prima ballerinas are already waltzing across the stage of my imagination. They are beautiful, poised, and determined; effortlessly graceful yet filled with iron strength. I may have no interest in dancing professionally, but I want to live as they dance – I want those words to describe me as a woman. And buying pointe shoes is a start – somehow I feel that these shoes unite me with this company of women and dancers that I admire.
“You need to sprinkle some baby powder in your toe pads so your feet don’t stick,” Angela tells me that first day, as the girls circle around me to offer advice on the proper ways of putting on pointe shoes and tying the ribbons. “There are two ways to do this. There is the Laura Adams method, which is to carefully sprinkle the precise amount into the pad. Or there is the Emily ShawRuss method, which is to dump the bottle upside-down and hope some of it lands somewhere near your pad.” We all laugh, for Laura is indeed a very systematic girl, and even as Angela talks, Emily is leaving a cloud of white powder in her wake.
I stand up on my pointe shoes for the first time and wobble my way through the class. I had always thought pointe shoes add to the grace and beauty of dance, but that was before I actually tried to dance in these blocks of concrete. It is definitely not pretty.”
And I still feel terribly uncertain on pointe shoes.  Anyway.  Now for the video.  I wish I could say this was me dancing (ha!), but it’s Heather Whitestone at the 1995 Miss America Pageant, doing a beautiful pointe solo to Via Deloroso: The Way of the Cross.  It’s a little bit like what we do, only a lot more advanced.  But I always come back to this video for inspiration, so I want to share it with you.  Watch it – you’ll be glad you did! (And the embedding code on youtube was taken away…so just click here)

in His grace,


(and I’m sorry – wordpress is being annoying tonight, so the formatting is all weird, and apparently it published only half of this post a few hours ago…)



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

nineteen summertime

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