To Darn or Not to Darn…

There are so many tips out there to make pointe shoes last longer, to make your feet look better, and to reduce noise. Sometimes, we forget to pass these secrets down to the younger generation, simply because it doesn’t cross one’s mind. It just becomes second nature, or you have just been doing it so long it doesn’t even seem like you are doing anything different.

how to darn pointe shoes

One of these secrets is to darn your pointe shoes. There are numerous reasons to darn:

  • Create a slightly wider platform to balance
  • Creating friction while turning
  • To quite the box
  • To find your box
  • To lengthen the line of your foot.

The list goes on.

So darning can be extremely time consuming for one pair of pointe shoes. It seems crazy that you would darn a pair of shoes, break it in and bang em out for one show; especially if you are on a budget.

So, why darn the box? Really it is a matter of preference. Some people use darning as a way to save the shoe, make the box reinforced and create a sturdier platform to balance. Anyways, there are multiple ways to darn a pointe shoe.

The first way is to take embroidery floss or crochet thread and loop it around the box multiple times. Like 8 or 10 times, sometimes even more depending on what you are dancing. Then easily whip stitch them together around the box holding the wrapped threads together. Easier said than done. When darning, you actually have to push into the first layer of the box, not just the stain so make sure you have a pretty heavy duty thimble. In this method you can leave slightly wider gaps to allow for give.

The second way  is to take a chord of elastic so there is give in the darning and take the embroidery floss and blanket stitch tightly around tightening the stitches after each stitch. The blanket stitch edge should be in towards the box. If you don’t know what a blanket stitch is, it is basically a whip stitch but right before going back through the stitch you guide the needle through the stitch and creating a version of a cow hitch for those of you knot enthusiasts out there.

darning a pointe shoe

TIPS TO DARN:

-The biggest and strongest needle

-A Very strong thimble

-Elastic Chord, if going the second way

-Embroidery floss or crochet thread

-Scissors

-if you are struggling pushing the needle through the box… use pliers.

-If you make a mistake, don’t take it out, just go over the stitch again, as long as it is comfortable for you to stand in.

-To check if the stitches are even, the shoe should balance on it’s own.

-If you want a video of how to darn… like the post!!

perfect darning

Poitnte Shoes/Products Featured: Grishko Nova Flex


The Guide to Pas De Deux Cover

 

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Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe

anatomy of a pointe shoe

Collectively, teachers and doctors can agree on one thing: pointe work is NOT healthy for the human body. With that being true, neither is being tackled by a 200-pound man on astroturf, regardless people do it. Dancers do it for the love the art, the strides towards perfection, and the ability to conquer physics. Ballet would not be ballet without pointe work; it is the ultimate goal of a female dancer and some male dancers. So, how does a 6-year-old girl go from dancing in her living room with winged butterfly costumes to defying gravity on the largest stages around the world? Hard work, determination and sacrifice. To dance on en pointe or on pointe, you have to be ready both physically and mentally. The road to pointe work is the first step in the long journey it takes to become a ballerina.The demand of pointe is not only physically straining, but it is also financially straining. They are probably one of the most expensive pair of shoes you will every buy, that will last at most two weeks. And for those blessed with strong feet and beautiful arches, maybe two days… And for those of you who dance en pointe constantly… Maybe a class or two? The pointe shoe is an oxymoron, as it doesn’t last long due to sweat and the breaking down of the raw materials. (Unless you wear Gaynors… These shoes last longer, but there is a huge debate about that… I have posted before on them… Just search Gaynor in the blog search.) As delicate as they are, and as delicate it creates the aesthetic for ballet… well, they are also extremely strong.

 

So, these delicate beauties that hide their strength also house a vital part of ballet… A ballerina’s feet. They protect and shape the look, aesthetic and power of ballet… I mean it really isn’t ballet if it isn’t en pointe…. right? The whole point of training ballet is to get pointe shoes. So, before you even attempt pointe, you probably should know what a pointe shoe is… This isn’t the history of pointe… This is the anatomy of a pointe shoe 🙂

Anatomy of a Pointe Shoe

A pointe shoe has to be designed for the masses, and, as a result, the pointe shoe industry has expanded greatly. Despite the maker or manufacturer of the shoe, the concepts behind the “parts” of the shoe remain the same. Pointe shoes get their structure from two main structural parts:
The Box: the front of the shoe that encases and supports the dancer’s toes.
The Shank: a hard material the stiffens or reinforces the sole of the shoe to support the arch of the foot while en pointe.
Pointe shoes get their pretty factor from the light pink satin covering, hiding the internal structure of the shoe.
With modern day engineering, the box of a pointe shoe has been reshaped to meet dancers’ foot shape. A box is traditionally made from the process of papier-mâché while innovators in pointe shoes are making the box from more durable substances like plastic. The box consists of 3 parts: the platform, the vamp, and the throat. Each one of these parts comes with different specs per the model and manufacturer of the shoe. The platform of the shoe allows the dancer to stand flat on the floor for balancing, turning, and giving the illusion of being weightless. The width and shape of the platform vary. A Gaynor Minden’s platform is the flattest, versus a Freed, has a slightly more round shape to let the dancer break in the platform to fit their needs. The vamp supports the dancers toes, but most importantly their metatarsals; the vamp can be shaped differently, allowing for higher sides, or a higher throat in the front, ensuring that all of the flexible joints are supported and encased within the box. Russian Pointes have higher vamps and give the illusion of a longer, narrower foot. The throat is the opening of the box, and can be V-shaped, or rounded. The overall shape of the box varies by the maker as well. These are all important as the box is going to give the dancer’s foot 360 support. Because the materials a box is made of degrades, the box of a pointe is crucial for a dancer. If the box “dies” meaning it becomes mushy, there is no support for the toes. A dancer can dance on a really dead shank, but a really dead box is almost impossible to dance on. The shank of a pointe shoe is supple but the sturdy support the arch needs to hold a dancer’s body weight. Usually, the shank the sole of the shoe correspond in shape with hardened pieces of leather, cardstock, or hardened burlap. The sole is traditionally scored leather to prevent slipping and falling on stage.

The pointe shoe is famous for the ribbons that wrap across the arch of the foot and tie above the ankle. The ribbons aren’t there for show, ribbons do offer some security to keep the pointe shoe on, but nowadays nude/pink elastic is sewn to the heel of the pointe shoe to keep the shoe in place. Additionally, there is a drawstring placed around the shoe encased in canvas that lines the throat of the shoe.

For more about pointe work…
The Guide to Pointe Work

The Guide to Pointe Work (2015) | $2.99 USD – click to download

 

Angel… go home…

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a ballet fail…. #angel go home… your company did not work out…. Don’t ruin PA Ballet.. you obviously are another AD who needs to be replaced.  Goodbye. What makes American Ballet great is that we aren’t super classical. Leave that to France and Russia… Let us be dynamic, stylized, and musical. You just need to stop. Anyways… most female dancers classical or not have over-crossed tight arms when turning. I’m over it.

The Big Five… (summer programs pt IV)

A lot of you concerned parents and students have written in about summer programs… While some of you have already gotten your acceptance letters, and have made your choices; others have gotten numerous rejection letters and are now distraught. First, we need to talk about the big five, which are the five summer program courses that everyone auditions for… Usually… maybe… most likely… The big five in terms of summer programs here in the US are, and in no particular order: San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. (For some, the big five will swap out PNB for Houston, or swap out San Francisco for Joffrey.)

Now, as you probably have experienced, that at the big five auditions, there are hundreds of kids… But this is why I encouraged all of you to make sure you come up with a plan ahead of time. When we (my friend and I) were training we would do the big five auditions, followed by 3 summer programs that are smaller, and then programs we thought we would be scholarship to (safety net)… For me the big five were ideal, but I wasn’t stupid… I didn’t have the ideal body type or natural facility. So, even though I went to those auditions, I would make sure to get to: Miami City Ballet, Orlando Ballet, North Carolina Dance Theatre, Chautauqua, and Suzanne Farrell. In addition I would do all of the smaller companies like Ballet Met, Cincinnati, Carolina Ballet… And I would randomly throw in regional companies like Sacramento Ballet, and Colorado.Obviously I didn’t do this when I was 13, but come sixteen… It started to really count.

You see, when you are sixteen and a school offers you a scholarship, they see a lot of potential… And at sixteen you probably should be training at a school affiliated with a company.. or have kick a$$ reputation (CPYB, Ellision, Yuri Gregoriev, Cuban Classical of Miami etc). The ideal situation for someone who is sixteen and going away for the summer varies, but this is the reality:

You want to get asked to stay for the year, and if they offer you a scholarship to stay for the year even better.

Summer programs are no longer a chance to get stronger, but the platform in which school directors watch your work ethic.

At sixteen, your primary focus should be landing a job, so you have to be realistic. Not everyone is meant to be in New York City Ballet, so there is nothing wrong with going and looking elsewhere…

In ballet, you have to be smart, and there is nothing wrong with going to a school that adores you and wants to work with you, but most importantly see your potential as an artist.

So, while the big five of summer programs flourish, you can be smart about this summer. Go to a program that is going to make you better, stronger, and most importantly, give you the attention you need. I remember when I went to a summer program that shall remain nameless… I went on a full scholarship and was told I had a trainee spot… we were placed in level 8. After getting there… and entering the first class… There were probably 40 others who were all promised the same thing. The studios couldn’t accommodate so many dancers, and we even had to do barre in groups. 3 days in, I said F it, and packed my bags and left for CPYB. Don’t get me wrong, CPYB was packed, but from the very first class I was singled out, given corrections, kind of humiliated, but pushed to my limits.

Lastly, there are hundreds of programs out there… You have to find the right fit. I remember one summer a girl I knew went away to Kansas City, who wasn’t all that great, but when she came back from summer course she was ridiculously flexible and had leg up. In terms of newer summer programs like Gen Next, Ellision, and so on… I am not really sure, just because when I was training they didn’t exist… haha. Now, I always say, look at the alumni… If their alumni are all uberly talented, and all getting jobs… that’s great and all, but anyone with natural facility, or have a hint of prodigy… they will always find work. period. If their alumni come in all shapes and sizes, then it s a different story. I am currently working on saving/ raising money to go travel the US and watch all of these programs… Soon enough, I will be able to help give you guys more in depth profiles into each school and program.