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September 14, 2014 5:16 PM   Subscribe

How pointe shoes get made, at Freed's of London (official shoe makers of the Royal Ballet). Has that whet your appetite? You can try your hand at the Royal Ballet's company class (or the Bolshoi's, if that is more your speed). If you never got a chance to take ballet as a kid, be inspired by the adult beginner ballet students of Kathy Mata. posted by ChuraChura (33 comments total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
Wow - a stunningly comprehensive post. Very nice.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:21 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is fantastic. Thanks!
posted by OolooKitty at 5:47 PM on September 14, 2014

Excellent post - thanks.
posted by parki at 5:59 PM on September 14, 2014

Interesting. I've long argued that few professional athletes could handle a ballet practice/dance.
posted by dfriedman at 6:01 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

See this for example.
posted by dfriedman at 6:02 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is a concept of jumping in ballet called "ballon". Quite the most wonderful feeling.

Remember the words of Nijinsky when you practice your jumps: 'I merely leap and pause.'

The PNB clip about jumping show some of that quite well (wow their new studio is really nice! wonder if anyone there remembers HOGS).

I wish I could recommend ballet, but the learning curve is just insane. It's a slow slow process that changes core elements of the body but changes that basic really need to start early. There is quite a lot of really good training and amazing dancers. It's also one of the most impractical art forms. Even the best get just a few performances a year and yikes ticket costs).
posted by sammyo at 6:03 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

May I also suggest checking out World Ballet Day on Oct 1? The Royal Ballet and Bolshoi as well as three other major companies are each streaming four hours from behind the scenes in class and rehearsal.

(I'm the lucky director of the National Ballet of Canada's portion and the project as a whole is pretty amazing!)
posted by sixswitch at 6:06 PM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

And to represent for the Canucks: Soloist Keiichi Hirano's core workout.
posted by sixswitch at 6:13 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had no idea that professional ballet will chew through a pair of shoes in one act. Not even one show, one act.

That's remarkable.
posted by mhoye at 6:15 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

why take ballet when you can simulate the long term effects by just smashing your feet with hammers and then getting a hip replacement

posted by poffin boffin at 6:24 PM on September 14, 2014 [19 favorites]

The ballet shoe making video filled a hole I didn't realise I've had since I watched similar segments on Sesame Street and The Polka-Dot Door. One of them had a very memorable crayons video.
posted by jeather at 6:37 PM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

And to represent for the Canucks: Soloist Keiichi Hirano's core workout

posted by Dip Flash at 6:41 PM on September 14, 2014

Oh man I still have a thing about pointe shoes, more than 20 years after leaving ballet behind.
posted by Sara C. at 6:47 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Crayon making on Mister Rogers, and Sesame Street)
posted by ChuraChura at 6:51 PM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh hey, I used to take classes with Kathy Mata! I think I recognize some of her students as well, though it's been several years now.

Awesome post, I look forward to watching more later.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:22 PM on September 14, 2014

Freed's are are many dancers preferred show, really a beautiful piece of workmanship. About 11 minutes in the representative points out that busy professional dancers don't have time to break in every shoe for every performance by wearing it and says "will manually shape the shoe to it's optimum condition". What that means in practice is taking these beautiful satin slippers and crushing them in a steel door jam and pounding with hammers. Those petite delicate dancers can be brutal to get the flexibility just right.
posted by sammyo at 7:34 PM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

And tough, more than a few times I noticed blood seeping through the seams of the toe shoes.
posted by sammyo at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I loved the part where they discuss dancer's manually breaking in their shoes. I knew that, but the way the woman describes having the shoes ready "for that last glorious hour of their life" is amazing.
posted by looli at 7:54 PM on September 14, 2014

The first ballet I ever saw was Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing "La Sylphide" at the Ontario Place Forum right after he defected from Russia. I was 12 or 14 or something and I fell in love with him and with ballet that night.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:59 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

And tough, more than a few times I noticed blood seeping through the seams of the toe shoes.

I'm pretty sure I still have my blood soaked pointe shoe from the last time I ever danced on stage, when I was 13. (Well, in ballet, anyway. I'm a bellydancer now.)

The shoes were Bloch's, and though the inside was covered in blood from the blisters that ruptured, then rubbed raw, you could only see the barest hint in the seam.

Exquisite instruments of torture, pointe shoes. I miss them, even so. Wrecked my feet with them, but I'm so grateful to have been able to dance before the arthritis showed up and wrecked the rest of my joints. For a little while, they made me feel like I could fly.
posted by MissySedai at 9:30 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Awesome post, lots to keep me enthralled!

I tried my pointe shoes on the other day (they came out of storage, my parents are moving house). Last time I wore them was in 1989. I thought I still had strong legs now but I really really don't. Being en pointe was like nothing else.
posted by prettypretty at 11:18 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I remember Freeds (UK) as being wildly disappparate in quality back in the day; fellow students who wore them would look for the specific maker's mark on the sole for their preferred fit and would buy up all the pairs they could find in the stores.

I started off in a pair of Capezio Nicolettas (Italian) and as I grew and my feet became stronger, I was a veriable UN of pointe shoes. There were the Australian Blochs (too thick feeling), the French Repettos (too narrow), the Russian Grishkos (shank broke too quickly), the Japanese Chacotts (box went soft too quickly), the French/Chinese Sanshas with their bamboo insert into the shank (too thick feeling), the technological American Gaynor Mindens which took athletic shoes technology and applied it to pointe shoes (too thick, platform too narrow).

I eventually ended back up at Capezio with a custom ordered Ariel: U vamp, elastic drawstring tied at the inner side of the arch, super low heel and super strong shank which I would promptly 3/4.

Many year later, here in Rome I take some classes here and there as time and money allow. And in asking my teacher what pointe shoes I might find here, I mentioned my favorite Ariels. And that's how I discovered after many many years of dancing that it's pronounced Ca-petz-ee-o and not Cap-ee-zee-o, which having spoken Italian for some time at this point was an "oh, right." moment if ever there was one.

Excellent post and there is a lot to keep me from packing my moving boxes like I should.
posted by romakimmy at 11:29 PM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

This is an astonishingly great post and has distracted me completely from what I am supposed to be doing.
posted by gingerest at 11:49 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Accessible for subscribers, one of my favorite New Yorker articles: "Pointe Counterpointe: Ballerinas wage a backstage battle over the proper toe shoe."
posted by mr. digits at 3:51 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a Bloch serenade girl, myself, and have just gotten back on pointe after 6 years, which doesn't seem long in the giant scheme of my life, but in terms of how much my feet have gotten wimpy and regained nerve endings since I last did pointe, it might be a lifetime. I am rebuilding those calluses through blisters and bunions and pretty, pretty pink silk.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:41 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm now cursing you Churachura, for your dastardly excellent post that has made my day fairly unproductive thus far.

In the interest of dragging others with me down the path of non-productivity, I offer the Pointe Shoe Brands Blog.
posted by romakimmy at 4:46 AM on September 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Romakimmy, that's so funny. I always sort of assumed there was a Mr. Capezio in the Lower East Side somewhere, making ballet shoes for the New York City Ballet in the 50s. I didn't know they were actually Italian at all.
posted by Sara C. at 6:27 AM on September 15, 2014

Talk about your memory jogs. I'd forgotten what a big part of Capezio's story used to be used for their marketing materials. But he was indeed born in Italy, and is thus claimed by the Italian dancers I have talked gear and shoes with. Which is also probably why my teacher looked askance at me when I pronounced it American style.

the moving boxes are silently judging me for my lackadaisical interaction with them...
posted by romakimmy at 7:17 AM on September 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love this post. I'm taking adult ballet classes now and I'm enjoying the heck out of it. We're mostly dancing hippos but I feel wonderfully graceful. I hope at some point we get to toe shoes. It won't be this year but maybe someday.
posted by shoesietart at 9:10 AM on September 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Out of all of the instances that require suspension of disbelief out of all of the Star Trek canon universe, the following line is the one that snapped me out of an episode the hardest:

BASHIR: Palis. Palis Delon. She was a dancer. A ballerina. She had exquisite feet...

Me: .......the 24th century truly is a miraculous place to be.

(Incidentally, I saw the Trocks on tour a couple of years back, and I recommend them. I really like watching men dance en pointe. Yes. Get up there and do it.)
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:37 AM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

She was a dancer. A ballerina. She had exquisite feet.

By far the most unrealistic thing to ever happen on Star Trek, maybe on all of televised entertainment to date.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:32 PM on September 15, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is an excellent post!

The Royal New Zealand Ballet Company has a tv show called the Secret Lives of Dancers which is entertaining and ran for a couple of seasons.

How it's Made also did a segment on how Pointe shoes are made.

Sorry for not linking but I'm on my phone.
posted by poxandplague at 6:16 AM on September 16, 2014

World Ballet Day is broadcasting live today! Right now they're with San Francisco Ballet during company class! National Ballet of Canada looked awesome, SixSwitch!!
posted by ChuraChura at 11:12 AM on October 1, 2014

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