Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Dancer: II


Every pair of pointe shoes is handmade, and, like snowflakes, inherently unique. Ballet dancers began rising en pointe in the late 1700's in an effort to appear weightless and ephemeral. It takes years of training to be able to do even the most basic of steps in pointe shoes, and it never becomes either easy or painless. It is impossible to fully grasp the art and athleticism of ballet without holding a pair of pointe shoes in your hands.

Dancers are supposed to rotate through a couple of pairs rather than wearing one pair all the time. It's partly to make sure that we always have shoes that are broken in, partly to let them dry properly, and partly to give our feet a rest from breaking in newer pairs. My feet look like this because I switched pointe shoes last night, and ended up taking the skin off three of my toes. The ones I didn't bother to tape. I felt it happen, during a long combination of turns across the floor. I turned to the girl next to me and said as much, "I think I just lost the skin off my toes." But here's the thing, I was dancing well last night and pushing to get it right, so I kept dancing.

By the time I took off my pointe shoes I had bled through my tights and part of the toes of my shoes. This is not an uncommon occurrence, and makes you no tougher than anyone else in the studio, but it does provide you with the ballet equivalent of "street cred", not because of the minor injury, but because of dancing through it. Which I will have to do for some time. I have two days to heal up, tape up, and put my pointe shoes back on. I will not have new skin in that time. But I'll still dance.

"Now now ladies, no huffing and puffing. No one wants to see a ballerina looking like it requires effort..." Miss Christina, one of my instructors


  1. youch! that's true dedication, miss.
    i just walked to the store in shoes a little too tight and am hobbling around now like i am crippled. i'm sure you would laugh at my reddened pinkie toes, but i can feel the blisters forming now!
    you very well may get me in ballet class one of these days but you will never get me on pointe, that's for sure.