Pointe Shoe Padding 101
Kansas City Ballet's Kelsey Hellebuyck cringes when she thinks back to her first few months in pointe shoes. "I started out wearing no padding," she remembers. "I had all these open blisters, so then I tried paper towels." But the towels would shred, and her blisters just got worse. After a lot of trial and error, Hellebuyck found that a thin gel padding took some pressure off her foot and still let her toes feel the edge of the shoe. "It was definitely a learning curve," she says.
It can take years—and many blisters!—to find the right pointe shoe padding for your unique feet. But that's not for lack of choices, from old-school lambswool to high-tech gel pads. Here's a breakdown of popular padding options that might give you some new ideas—and, hopefully, happier toes.
Pros: This traditional padding eases friction, and helps fill negative space in your shoe if some of your toes are shorter than others. "You want to have even pressure on all the toes," says Kelly Agnew, a teacher at Houston Ballet Academy. It also helps absorb perspiration, and can be washed, puffed back up and reused. "I'm a fan of lambswool because it tends not to get as smelly," Agnew says.
Cons: Loose lambswool might move in your shoe and bunch in places you don't want. "You can overstuff the shoe and
cut off circulation to the toes, making it difficult to feel your foot," says Agnew. And lambswool pads, which are filled with coarse, fluffy wool, sometimes have stitching that can feel bulky and irritating.
Pros: Gel pads are usually thin and lightweight, and can be washed. "A lot of girls feel that gel pads are the most comfortable solution," says Patrice Heston, professional shoe fitter and co-owner of the Dancewear Center in Kirkland, WA. There are a variety of shape and thickness options available. Some gel pads only have gel on top and on the tip, so you can feel the floor; some have a flared shape that's good for wider feet, and some have a narrower shape for slender feet; some have long sides that will ease pressure on bunions.
Cons: "Silicone gel pads trap a lot of moisture," Heston says. "That can lead to toenail fungus or athlete's foot"—and, inevitably, to a smelly situation. Most gel pads also have side seams, which can be bothersome, and some have padding under the metatarsals, which can make it hard to feel the floor.
Pros: Paper towels do one job, and they do it well: They reduce friction. "You'll learn to lift your weight out of your shoes quicker if you don't have super-cushy padding," Heston says. Paper towels are also less expensive than other types of padding, especially if you buy rolls in bulk. And since you throw out the towels after each wear, there's no stink factor.
Cons: Paper shreds easily, particularly after it absorbs some perspiration. "You also have to fold a new one up each time, instead of using a pre-shaped pad," Hellebuyck says. The paper towel might move around in your shoe and give you less control than a gel pad. And it's not the most environmentally friendly option.
Pros: You can feel the shoe, and the floor, as much as possible.
Cons: There's no buffer between you and the shoe, which can cause problems like blisters, corns and bruised toenails. "I don't think it's wise for younger students to start with nothing, because their toes aren't toughened up yet," Agnew says. "And some dancers never get to the point where they can just tape their toes and go."
That's not all, folks: There are tons of other options out there, including cotton balls, dish rags, foam toe caps and the toes of socks. (Some creative dancer is probably inventing a new type of padding right this minute.) What's most important to remember is that the shoe shouldn't determine the padding—the way your foot fits into the shoe should. "Everyone's toes are shaped differently," Heston says. "Some people need more padding and some need less. But you shouldn't be miserable!"
Misty Copeland. Her name is synonymous with exquisite artistry and outspoken advocacy. And her visibility has made a huge impact on the ballet world. Ballet's relationship with race has always been strained at best, hostile at worst. But Copeland's persistent message and star quality have finally forced the ballet industry to start talking about racial diversity, inclusivity, and representation. "The rarity of seeing ourselves represented is sad," Copeland says. "The more we see every hue and body shape represented on the stage, the more possibilities young dancers feel they have for themselves."
The Olympics are always full of inspiring Cinderella stories, where athletes no one had heard of mere months ago end up blowing all expectations out of the water, and maybe even nabbing a medal in the bargain. But we've recently caught wind of a different kind of Cinderella story—and it's one we really, really hope shows up in the Closing Ceremonies of the PyeongChang Olympics, airing tonight on NBC starting at 8 pm Eastern/5 pm Pacific time.
Being a dancer comes with the task of having to entertain the same questions over and over again from those outside the dance world. Of course, we love having our friends and family take an interest in our passion—but if someone asks ONE MORE TIME whether or not we've met Travis Wall, we might just go crazy.
Here are 10 questions that dancers hate getting asked.
Contemporary phenom Christina Ricucci has super-flexible hips, which means she can stretch her legs to unbelievable heights. But when she noticed herself making contorted positions in class, Ricucci realized she was approaching her extensions all wrong. "I went back to the basics in class, squaring my hips and using my turnout," Ricucci says. "I learned to create proper positions, rather than whacked-out versions of them."
Some dancers are so wonky they have a hard time supporting their high legs, while others struggle with limited flexibility. But no matter your facility, you can find a balance of stretch and strength to achieve your fullest range of extension. It's not about how high (or not) your legs can go: It's the quality of the movement, and how you get those legs up, that counts.
Last month, we asked why there wasn't a Best Choreography category at the Oscars—and discovered that many of you agreed with us: Choreographers should definitely be acknowledged for their work on the super-dancy movies we can't get enough of.
Now, we're taking matters into our own (jazz) hands.
We've decided to create a Dance Spirit award for the best cinematic choreography of 2017. With your input, we've narrowed the field to four choreographers whose moves lit up some of the best movies of the year. Check out our nominations for best choreography below—and vote for the choreographer you think deserves the honor. We'll announce the winner on Friday, March 2.
Once upon a time (until the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi concluded, to be exact), figure skaters had to compete to music without words. Before this rule change, a skater faced an automatic point deduction if the music even hinted at vocals. Understandably, there were *a lot* of Olympic programs skated to classical music, and you'd tend to hear the same music selections over and over and over.
There are plenty of current Olympic figure skaters who'd make beautiful dancers (first among them Adam Rippon, whose gorgeously choreographed long program won the internet, if not the gold). But today, as we wait for the women's figure skating competition to crown its new champions, we wanted to throw it back to one of the most beautifully balletic skaters of all time: Sasha Cohen.
The high-flying leaps of grand allegro are meant to be incredibly exciting. But at the end of an intense ballet class, when you're exhausted, it can be hard to give them the attention they deserve. Want to pump up your big jumps? Follow these 10 vital tips from Jennifer Hart, curriculum director and instructor at Ballet Austin.