Ah, pointe shoe rituals: Few things are more fascinating—or more personal. Discovering the tricks that work best for your shoes and feet is part of figuring out your dancer identity. Should you crush your shoes in a door? Soak the boxes in water? Scratch up the soles? Three-quarter the shanks? Sew the ribbons on the inside, or the outside? These are seemingly tiny decisions, but they can make a huge difference in how you look and feel while dancing.
A couple of years ago, The Australian Ballet made a mini-documentary about how some of its dancers break in their pointe shoes. I missed the film when it first came out, but L.A.'s Music Center recently re-posted it, in honor of TAB's October U.S. tour. It's totally mesmerizing. As principal Amber Scott says, preparing your shoes is essentially a meditative process, as beneficial for your mind as it is for your feet—and the footage draws us right into that peaceful space.
Corps dancer Jessica Fyfe's pointe shoes—before and after.
In other words, it's the perfect "relax, it's Friday" video. Take a look!
As Odette in Swan Lake (by Liz Ham)
With her razor-sharp lines, pristine technique and innate musicality, The Australian Ballet principal Amber Scott is any choreographer’s dream. Born in Brisbane, Australia, Scott started training at The Australian Ballet School at age 11. After graduating at the top of her class, she was asked to join TAB in 2001 and was promoted to the rank of principal in 2011. Scott has charmed audiences with her versatility, embodying characters from Hanna Glawari in Ronald Hynd’s comic ballet The Merry Widow to Juliet in Graeme Murphy’s Romeo and Juliet. Luckily, you can see Scott perform without paying for a plane ticket to the Land Down Under: She’s heading to NYC with TAB in June. The company will perform Murphy’s Swan Lake and a contemporary mixed bill with works by Wayne McGregor and Stephen Page at the David H. Koch Theater. —Gretchen Schmid
Take it from Winston Churchill: “These are great days.”
A teenage Scott, getting corrections from Gailene Stock (courtesy Amber Scott)
At the difficult points in your teenage years when growth spurts, braces, boys and ballet make you feel awkward, think of those words. The duckling phase will melt into the swan era before you know it. The dedication and focus that you’re learning now will be the most valuable tools you take into your career. These are days of possibility, when everything is ahead of you.
Let the books you read about famous dancers, great people and exciting destinations stir your imagination. You’ll be meeting some of these artists and traveling to exotic locations sooner than you think.
Your body is becoming the refined tool that will allow you to realize your dancing dreams. Be kind and patient with it. When it’s tired, rest. When it’s sore, stop and ask for help. Ballet is not a race. Focus on developing strength in an intelligent way. Quality is always better than quantity.
Treasure the love of your family. They are your backbone and will always be a source of resilience.
Above all, be brave, girl! You have the inner grit to make it as a ballerina. Enjoy the journey. And every once in a while, take out that ballet bun, get out of your pointe shoes and enjoy fun times with your friends!