The Feet Inside the Shoes

New York City Ballet principal Jennie Somogyi's feet. Photo by Robert Maxwell.

Let’s just say it: Objectively speaking, dancer feet, particularly ballet dancer feet, can be really, really gross. Bruised toenails, blisters, callouses, bunions—they’re not the most attractive things in the world.

But “ugly” feet are also a dancer’s badge of honor. First, they’re visual testimony to the hours of grueling work we all put in to make what happens onstage look effortless. And second, many of those “deformities” are actually protective armor. How could any ballet dancer survive a 12-hour day in pointe shoes without her trusty callouses?

New York City Ballet dancer Troy Schumacher talked to Claudia La Rocco about dancer feet over at The Performance Club’s website yesterday. Here’s the link to the post, which includes some of Schumacher’s up-close-and-personal foot photos.

“There’s definitely a huge amount of pain that goes into ballet dancing,” he says. “I really want to hide people’s pain a  little bit less…and try to make these dancers a little bit more human, even though ballet makes you able to hold yourself in ways that are almost super human.”

Foot worship—as long as the feet are in pointe shoes—is pretty much universal among ballet dancers. But I like Schumacher’s idea of celebrating what’s going on beneath that pretty pink satin. Why shouldn’t we be proud of the bleeding, blistered, calloused feet that allow us to create magic onstage?

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