Interns Are Right on Pointe

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!

Love,

Your summer interns.

P.S. First time on pointe? Check out Pointe Shoes 101 in this month’s issue!

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by Jamayla Burse

Catching Up With Christian Burse, Comp Kid Turned Complexions Rising Star

With her nearly limitless facility, well-timed dynamics and incredible control, Christian Burse's future as a dancer was guaranteed to be bright. A student at the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, TX, and at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, TX, Burse has consistently made waves: She won first runner-up for Teen Outstanding Dancer at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals in 2019, received a grant for summer study at Juilliard from the Texas Young Masters program in 2020, and was named a YoungArts finalist for dance in 2021.

So, it wasn't all that surprising when Burse announced that, at just 17 years old, she would be joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet as an apprentice for the company's 2021–22 season.

Dance Spirit caught up with Burse to hear all about her first season with Complexions ahead of the contemporary ballet company's run at the Joyce Theater in NYC this month.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search