A wise dancer (who also happens to work at Dance Spirit) once said you can really get to know a dancer by how she breaks in her pointe shoes. Teachers usually recommend that beginner pointe students make no alterations to their shoes. But as we grow older (and our feet grow stronger) we start looking to friends for break-in advice. I remember one of mine told me to use a special glue, Jet Glue, on the tip of my pointe shoes to harden them, but I didn’t know she meant on the inside! So I had a very slippery (not to mention embarrassing) class. Here at Macfadden (the company that brings you your favorite dance magazines) we like to think we’re slightly more informed. So get to know us, the summer interns, and check out what we do to break our shoes. Learn a new trick or two, which you can pass on to your ballet pals! But before you make any alterations to your shoes be sure to Ok them with your teacher.
WHO: Elizabeth Zelesny, 21, Pointe magazine editorial intern HER SHOE: Grishko 2007 ON POINTE: Age 13-present DANCES AT: Princeton Ballet School, New Jersey HER TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Elizabeth puts Jet Glue on the inside of the box and breaks the shank before wearing her shoes. When she’s done dancing she sticks them against the wall, box up, to let them dry. And when they’re starting to get soft she has a special technique to harden them up: “Wrap a wet paper towel around the box and put them in the freezer for a few hours,” she says. “Just don’t forget to take them out!”
WHO: Rachel Zar, 22, Dance Magazine editorial intern HER SHOE: Freed of London ON POINTE: Age 13-16 DANCED AT: Ballet Chicago Studio Company, Illinois HER TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Rachel admits to not having the strongest of arches, so she “went to town” on her shoes before wearing them. She always cut the satin off the tip (a great way to avoid slipping), closed a door on the box and even went through a phase where she’d scratch the bottom of her shoes with a fork for better traction. Rachel was guilty of a major dance shoe faux pas: she used to throw her shoes in her dance bag after wearing them “and hope for the best,” she says (why is this a no-no? Check here). She knew, however, how to use her shoes long after they were dead: she hung a “waterfall” of used pointe shoes on the wall at the head of her bed. It looked cool, but “smelled kind of bad if you got too close,” she says.
WHO: Michael Anne Bailey, 22, Dance Spirit magazine editorial intern HER SHOE: Grishko 2007 ON POINTE: Age 12-18 DANCED AT: The Winner School in Salt Lake City, Utah HER TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Michael used to sew her ribbons and elastic with dental floss. It’s stronger than regular thread, so it keeps everything in place. (Author’s note: you may try this, but please don’t try to floss with thread). Though some people like to cut their shanks, Michael preferred a full shank “because it made the shoes last longer,” she says.
WHO: Ebbe Sweet, 20, photography intern HER SHOE: Freed of London ON POINTE: Age 11-16 DANCED AT: City Ballet School in San Francisco, California HER TRICKS OF THE TRADE: “I used to buy them and break the shank and rip the shank out and then bang them against the wall and then wear them, and then Jet Glued them and then keep wearing them,” she said. This process allowed her to keep her shoes for about three weeks.
WHO: Michelle Conroy, 21, Pointe magazine and Dance Teacher magazine editorial intern HER SHOE: Freed of London ON POINTE: Age 10-present DANCES AT: Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania HER TRICKS OF THE TRADE: Because of her bunions, Michelle places a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover (it dries faster than water) on the tight areas around the box and then she wears the shoes at the barre. “I do a lot of relevés,” she says. When her shoes start to die (“If I’m lucky, I can get five weeks out of them”), she doesn’t use Jet Glue; she’s found a cheaper method. She uses floor wax and a paint brush to “paint” the inside of her shoes so they re-harden. “I can get a liter of floor wax for $3,” she said.
WHO: Aminta Iriarte, 22 (your trusty reporter), Dance Magazine, Pointe magazine and Dance Spirit magazine fashion intern (I know, right?) MY SHOE: Grishko 2007 ON POINTE: Age 11-16 DANCED AT: Ballet Clásico de Cámara in Caracas, Venezuela MY TRICKS OF THE TRADE: I used Jet Glue on the inside before wearing them, and then stepped on the box to soften and flatten it. If they were tight I would put some water on the outside wherever they felt uncomfortable, usually on the sides and the back (stay away from the tip—you don’t want to soften it too much). At any given moment I always had two pairs of shoes in use. When I was breaking in new shoes I only wore them at the barre and switched to my older pair for the center. It’s also a good idea to have a pair of shoes for class and one for stage.
So there you have it. Hope we’ve given you new ideas about breaking in your shoes! But again, be sure to check with your teacher before you make any modifications. Dance on!
Your summer interns.
P.S. First time on pointe? Check out Pointe Shoes 101 in this month’s issue!