Six ballerinas discuss why they love their pointe shoes.
Kajiya in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker (Photo by Amitava Sarkar, courtesy Houston Ballet)
Yuriko Kajiya, Principal, Houston Ballet
Foot type: Wide and flat, with long toes
Shoe: Capezio Tiffany
Customizations: “I like my heels and sides to be lower than those of the stock shoes. One of the biggest things Capezio does for me is cut down my shank to almost nothing. I really like how light the shoes feel on my feet.”
Kajiya’s advice to dancers: “Pointe shoes are like Cinderella slippers—you’re always trying to find the style that’ll help you dance your best. I’d advise younger dancers not to go with shoes that are too hard in the beginning. They can cause damage to your Achilles tendons if you aren’t strong enough.”
Rausch in Ulysses Dove's Red Angels (Photo by Angela Sterling, courtesy Pacific Northwest Ballet)
Lesley Rausch, Principal, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Foot type: Long and narrow, with very high arches
Shoe: Freed of London “V” maker
Customizations: “I wear wing-blocked shoes and ask them to bang out the bottom
and platform so they’re really flat. Freed also three-quarters the shank and makes the vamp and sides to my specifications. A lot of shoes try to make you go over your pointe more, and that just doesn’t
work for my ankles.”
Rausch’s advice to dancers: “Talk to someone who has a foot shape similar to yours, especially if you like the way her shoes look. Find out what she wears and what her tricks are. It’s really a matter of trial and error.”
Button in Jose Martinez's Resonance (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet)
Dusty Button, Principal, Boston Ballet
Foot type: Wide at the ball, narrow at the heel
Shoe: Bloch Inc. Jetstream
Customizations: “To accommodate my foot shape, Bloch makes the heel of my shoe much narrower than the base. Because my arch is closer to my heel than the middle of my foot, they remove one of the nails from the bottom so it breaks right where my arch is.”
Button’s advice to dancers: “Don’t just follow what’s trendy. I think it’s silly when people tell you not to wear a certain brand or type of shoe. Find what actually works for your foot, regardless of anyone else’s thoughts or what your favorite dancer wears.”
Erickson in La Bayadere (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre)
Julia Erickson, Principal, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Foot type: Wide and square, with bunions
Shoe: Gaynor Minden #4 box
Customizations: “I have some of the material cut down on the sides, and the back half of the upper is made with Gaynor Minden’s Luxe fabric lining, which prevents the wrinkling that can happen when you point your foot in your shoe. I also have a box liner because I’m kind of in between sizes. I wear both the hard shank and the ExtraFlex shank, depending on the role I’m dancing. These shoes are great, because they really let my metatarsals spread and alleviate the pressure on my bunions.”
Erickson’s advice to dancers: “Be patient. It takes time to find the shoe that feels like an extension of your body. Wear what makes you feel free to dance the way you want to dance.”
Angelova in Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy The Suzanne Farrell Ballet)
Violeta Angelova, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
Foot type: Under-pronated with a recovering injury on the fifth metatarsal
Shoe: Sansha Etudes
Customizations: “I don’t have a special order on this particular shoe. I actually wear a few different brands of pointe shoes depending on the role that I’m dancing. These shoes are very quiet, so when I recently danced Giselle, which has so many jumps, they worked well. I do have to make sure my shoes are softened properly to avoid aggravating my fifth metatarsal.”
Angelova’s advice to dancers: “Try as many different shoes as possible. If you can, have a fitting with a shoe company and see if they can make a trial shoe especially for you.”
Scheller with Tyler Angle in Balanchine's The Four Temperaments (Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB)
Ana Sophia Scheller, Principal, New York City Ballet
Foot type: Wide
Shoe: Grishko Nova
Customizations: “My vamp and sides are slightly shorter than those of the stock shoe, and my shank is measured to break with my arch, with additional flexibility through demi-pointe. I like that these shoes last a lot longer than any others I’ve worn.”
Scheller’s advice to dancers: “You always want a pretty shoe, but make sure it’s also comfortable so it doesn’t cause injuries.”
I love photographs that capture not only beautiful dance positions, but also the feeling of dance—that crazy kinetic kick you get watching somebody move.
Photographer and former contemporary ballet dancer Jesús Chapa-Malacara has figured out a cool lighting technique that allows his images to do that perfectly. They're artfully blurred, conveying a sense of movement—but that amazing moment when everything's fully stretched and pointed is still in perfect focus.
It gets even better: He's recruited a group of gorgeous ballet models, most of whom are members of American Ballet Theatre. The roster currently includes Michaela DePrince, Jared Matthews, Yuriko Kajiya, James Whiteside, Sterling Baca, Elina Miettinen, Sean Stewart, Cassandra Trenary and Patrick Yocum, and it's growing quickly.
Chapa-Malacara is hoping to create an art book, Esprit de Corps, out of his beautiful images. And he's turned to Kickstarter to help him raise the funds he needs to do so. Take a peek at a few of his photos below—then check out his campaign here.
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American Ballet Theatre soloist Yuriko Kajiya has crystal-clear technique that dazzles audiences—including the “So You Think You Can Dance” crowd, which gave her a huge ovation after she performed the Don Quixote pas de deux on the show during Season 7. This month, Kajiya will put that technique to good use as one of the grown-up Claras in ABT’s new Nutcracker, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. With her petite, delicate frame, Kajiya is a natural choice to play the “not a girl—not yet a woman” holiday heroine. Catch her and the rest of the company at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, December 22 through January 2—and read on for The Dirt! —Margaret Fuhrer
If you could work with any choreographer, past or present, who would it be? Petipa, Balanchine, Ashton, MacMillan...I would LOVE to see how all the greatest ballets are created.
Must-see T.V. show: Top Chef. I also like CSI.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure? I love ice cream!
One thing most people don’t know about you: I left home when I was ten and went to Shanghai Ballet School. As a result I speak Japanese, English and Chinese fluently.
What did you want to be when you were a teen? Nurse, flight attendant, and a ballerina.
One thing you can’t live without: My MacBook Pro
Favorite city in the world: New York! I am so happy that it is my home.