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...