May 11, 2013

My New Alpha Pointe Shoes



My first pair of custom made pointe shoes.. I feel like Cinderella, even though the shoes were not made specifically for me. They were a gift from a friend who no longer dances en pointe, and who knew we have about the same shoe size. Lucky me! I couldn't wait to try the "Alphas" on - maybe I have finally found my perfect match? Custom made or not, traditional pointe shoes can be modified and broken in to fit your feet. Unless, of course, they are way too short/wide/narrow to begin with. But before I did anything that could ruin my new pair, I asked my teacher Marie-Pierre for advice. She told me to bring the shoes to class so that we could fix them together (if possible). A professional shoe-break-in-session, yay!

I was in class early, as we had agreed, and waiting with my shoes and carpet knife. Unfortunately I had forgotten to pack my own, and the knife I borrowed from work seemed much too flimsy. Yes, you read right: a carpet knife is a handy tool for tuning and thinning the sole of your pointe shoes. The Alphas are already pre-cut, but I had also brought my old Balance Europeans which needed some fine-tuning. Just make sure the blade is sharp, and take safety measures. M-P told me how she had once witnessed the soloist prepare her shoes before Giselle's opening night. She was cutting into the leather, when her hand slipped and the knife sliced right into her thigh. So be extra careful, and kids: do not do this at home, and certainly not without adult supervision! But before any sole-slicing, things were about to get even more violent.

Satin cut away from under the box. 

My teacher apologized beforehand, but I had already given her the custody of my shoes. I trust her implicitly, so she could do with them whatever she felt necessary. First, she opened the door and placed the shoe between the hinges. This is how you flatten a too hard/high box (if you know what you're doing). It's also a way to break doors, so watch out.. After the door treatment came the stepping onto shoes. Madame stood on the box with her full ballerina-weight (ask a big guy for more pressure), and then handed the shoe over to me. Oh, and lest I not forget: she checked how the shoes fit my feet before she proceeded to break them in. They were okay length-wise, but felt a bit too narrow across the metatarsal bones. And the box was damn hard on my big toe joint, around the bunion area. After she gave the shoes the ballerina treatment, I was amazed at the result. They fit my feet, I could go on pointe, without pain - and without padding!

The outer sole is of 3/4 quarter length, and the shank has been pre-cut to match. The leather insole is full length for comfort.

That's another thing. Pointe shoes are made to dance in. It's not like wearing stiletto Jimmy Choos and taking the limo to your destination so you only need to cross the red carpet (and kick you shoes off under the table). Of course, pointe shoes are not like wearing sneakers either. There's bound to be some discomfort, certainly at the end of a pointe class. But you cannot have the shoes and dance too. Okay,  not sure if my cake reference is working here... What I mean to say is that pointe shoes are supposed to be an extension of your feet, your technique and your artistry. If you can't articulate your feet in your too hard shoes, what good will that do? Whatever we are doing in soft shoes, we should be able to do in our pointe shoes.

My new shoes are now almost ready. I've sewn on the ribbons, which have a bit of elastic to relieve pressure at the achilles tendon. I've never tried these "elastorib"-ribbons before, and it took me a while to measure the correct placement. The little user's manual tells you how to, and it's really not that complicated. I still need to get elastic ribbons to prevent the heels from slipping off, but that's been a bit trickier. I like to use Bloch's covert elastic, which was sold out last time I checked. I bought Gaynor Minden's similar elastic instead, but I don't like it. The colour doesn't match and it's not wide enough. I called the shop yesterday, and will make a trek there this Sunday (yes, it's open on Sundays). I really want to wear my new shoes next Tuesday. There are only two more classes with M-P before the summer break, and I really prefer her expert guidance.

Elastorib satins from Bloch. Love how the colour matches the shoes. Oh, and they do feel more comfortable. 

Another thing.. These shoes have a much narrower fit than my usual Bloch Balance Europeans (size 6 XX), which means I can't fit my ouch-pouches into them. It's been a while since I've taped my toes, a procedure I have not missed. It's a bit of a hassle, especially if you need to tape them already before your regular class. Feet get sweaty, and tape doesn't always stay in place. I wonder what your experiences are with taping?

I haven't written anything yet about the 3/4 outsole and cut shank design.. They are supposed to help you achieve maximum arch of the foot, and still be supportive enough. My teacher reckons they could work very well on my feet, which are strong but don't have that much of an instep. She's already shown me how to adapt the soles of my old (and current) shoes, so I have some experience with a very bendy shank. I expect first class to be hard on my feet, and I'm defintely bringing my old shoes along if I need to change before pointe class is over. But we will see. The story continues...

17 comments:

  1. Wow, those look like cool shoes! How do these custom made shoes compare to the stock Alphas?

    I just tried dancing in my first pair of custom made Freeds this week. I've had them for months... not sure why it took me so long to start wearing them other than I really wanted to kill one of my old pairs first... I like to have two pairs that are in danceable shape, but three is too many for me!

    Anyway, what I really wanted to comment on was your question about tape. I found some tape in the first aid section of the drugstore that I really love... it's like the sticky part of a bandaid. The kind I use is a bit thick, so it gives a bit of cushion. Plus it's designed to be waterproof, so it stays in place really well. The only downside is that you need scissors to cut it... it won't rip. But it's my favorite discovery so far.

    Can't wait to hear how the new shoes work for you!

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    1. Hi Rori!

      I looked at Bloch Australia's website, and compared to stock Alphas these have a pre-cut shank (although stock shoes have "been prepared for the dancer to modify to their desired length"). And I think the outsole might be a little shorter than 3/4.

      I wish I could go for a Freed fitting, but here in Finland it's only possible if you work at the National Ballet. I would gladly pay extra to get perfectly fitting shoes.. How are yours working out in class?

      Thanks for the tape-tip! I'm looking for something that's a bit cushioned, but doesn't leave a sticky residue. It's a real drag to collect lint and dirt on your toes, now that sandal season is on..

      I haven't worn the Alphas yet, but all ribbons have finally been sewn. Took them to class yesterday and tried them on after pointe class. My old ones are so comfy right now, I really don't want to go through the new-pointes-torture yet.. But next week is my last class with Marie-Pierre (before the summer break), and she's expecting me to wear them. I'll report back after!

      Thanks for your comment :)

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  2. So eagerly waiting how these turn out for your feet! :)

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    1. Iepukka, right now I feel a bit like one of Cinderella's stepsisters.. You know the beautiful ballerina whom these shoes were made for, and it's not like we are twins.. ;) I'll probably wear these even if it kills me, but I hope my feet don't give up before I do! :D

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  3. I'm really intrigued by your pictures and descriptions! Your feet sound a lot like mine...there's an arch underneath but not a lot of instep. I've used the Block Balance Euros before but find the vamp to be a bit long. I'm auditioning some new pointe shoes right now to see if there's a better fit. I really like the 1/2 shank on your Alphas...please keep us informed :) Love all this good info...

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    Replies
    1. Kaija, have you tried Bloch's Jetstream? It has a lower vamp than BE, and might just work for you..

      I have now worn the Alphas once, to pointe class. But I changed into my old spare pair before the barre was over, to give my feet a break. I had forgotten to bring tape, and was a bit worried about getting blisters. I did have one jelly big toe tip, and two bunion guards over my small toes. Feet never being symmetrical, there's always somthine unexpected. My wider right foot started to cramp a bit, but then it was fine. However, my left's foot pinky toe was under too much pressure. Need to protect it with a jelly tip.

      Other than that, it was kinda awesome. I didn't take class with M-P, but with my other ballet/pointe teacher, and she thought the shoes looked good on my feet. I could see some improvement too, especially in my second position. I like how there's no resistance under the break point of your arch. But it does take some getting used to. We did this exercise at the barre where you pique onto arabesque, then plié, then relevé. It felt.. different, but I'm not yet sure why.. I have another class with M-P tomorrow, and I will definitely know more then :)

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  4. I really love your blog !! I love ballet I am looking forward to reading your future posts xx

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    1. Thank you, Charlotte! It's always nice to get such positive feedback... it inspires me! :)

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  5. So at the end, how works your alphas ?

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    1. Julie, I'm still trying.. They are harder to balance in, and not very comfortable. Not that pointe shoes ever are.. ;) But you do get a very nice arch in them.

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  6. i love your blog. ive been dancing ballet for 13+ years. and im only 16. i love the brand bloch. the alpha's are great and so are the european balance but i love their serenade the best. the serenades are definitely my perfect pointe shoe.

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  7. I loved your story! I love getting new pointe shoes (I know I'm weird) I have never seen the three quarter length soles before but they look interesting. I wasn't really aware before of modifications that could be made to shoes. I am going to get a new pair this week end and I will keep that in mind :) thanks p.s. Bloch has always been my choice :)!

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  8. P.P.S. I use hockey tape for my toes...so does the rest of my studio for the most part but I don't really know weather it is just because I dance in hickville where everyone and their sister plays hockey; but it works and it can be much less expensive than other tapes

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    1. Hockey tape? Interesting. I live in Finland where just about every male plays ice hockey. I definitely need to investigate further. Thanks for the tip! :)

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  9. Hey ! I just bought my jetstream pointe shoes from bloch . But I'm affraid they are flawed. Are they supposed to look like that ? https://scontent-a-cdg.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn2/988866_10200928635443919_1310426380_n.jpg

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    1. Sorry, I could not open the image link. Maybe if you post a picture on Bloch's facebook page? Hope that helps.
      - Johanna

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