Recently I interviewed Rachel Cossar, a Corps de ballet dancer with Boston Ballet.
One of the questions I asked during the Cupcakes & Conversation interview related to the preparation of Rachel’s pointe shoes – in fact, it’s a question I always ask because there are a million different ways of working pointe shoes, with the technique being personal, and crucial, to each dancer. When Rachel answered, “arghhh, this is still something I am experimenting with. I have been having some major issues with shoes these days…but for now, I stand on the block to flatten it out. Then, once I have taken out the nail in the back, I try to bend the shank to give it maximum mobility. Sometimes I bang them because for some reason, my solos are like absolute bricks,” I was intrigued.
So I asked more questions and Rachel kindly agreed to eloquently elaborate :
“One of the most intense love/hate relationships I have ever experienced is the one I entertain with my pointe shoes. Unless they are blessed by some angel or other force, most dancers, I feel, would agree with me.
I wear a Suffolk Solo, custom made to fit my specific requirements. Now, although my shoes are indeed customized for me, each shoe is a tad different from the other. This can result in some shoes that break exactly right, mold to my foot like a sock and generally make me feel like a much stronger dancer. A good pointe shoe, to me at least, has the perfect balance between support and pliability.
As most dancers can attest, a good pair of shoes is really rare. Once I find myself in a pair, I tend to milk them until they have been ground to a pulp, and then sadly, I must retire them to the dead shoe box!
There are a couple of things that make pointe shoes so unpredictable. One thing, again, is the individuality of each shoe. Recently, Suffolk has been going through some changes and this has had repercussions on our shoes, even customized orders. However, it is not only the shoe maker that is to be blamed for inconsistencies. As a dancer, the muscle structure of my feet is always changing and this too can result in a different relationship between my foot, the way I use it and the shoe I am in. For instance, when I first started with Boston Ballet, I preferred a shoe that was more supportive and I required less pliability. Now, because my feet have become a bit stronger, I need a lighter shoe with a wider range of flexibility, especially in the metatarsal area.
As you see, there are many factors that go into finding that perfect pair of shoes. I am still looking and am very envious of any dancer who has found theirs. A pointe shoe should be like an extension of your leg; if it looks like a brick on the end of your foot (which occasionally is what mine feel like…) then the search continues!”
Now I bet, if you do ballet, whether professional or not, then you’ll have a pointe shoe story.
Have you found the perfect pair of pointe shoes ? What are your experiences of buying pointe shoes ? Or are you still, like Rachel, experimenting with your shoes ?