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paul

Noisy point shoes

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I was watching a YouTube video of a 2005 Mariinsky Theatre Swan Lake performance and good gracious, you can definitely hear the very noisy point shoes (it was REALLY annoying during the "Dance of the Little Swans" sequence from Act I Scene 2 :mad: ).

I'd like to know how they managed to block out nearly completely the noise of the point shoes on the 2007 DVD release of Swan Lake (Decca 074 3216 7) without interfering with the great sound of the orchestra and even the applause from the audience. :dunno:

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I remember a Time magazine feature on Gelsey Kirkland shortly after her move to ABT, and it described her pointe shoe preparation routine. One of the steps was hammering the boxes to silence them.

Yes, and while on the Soviet Union tour, out of a sleepless frustration caused by her room's nightstand radio, she gave the hammer a different use...

"I grabbed the hammer that i used to soften my shoes. After giving the radio a few good shots, i gave up.(...)It was still crackling. I decided to match wits with this infernal device.(...)I figured i had every right to smash a defective radio that was keeping me awake".

Gelsey Kirkland. "Dancing on my Grave"

:dunno:

But back to the noisy toe shoes...

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I was watching a YouTube video of a 2005 Mariinsky Theatre Swan Lake performance and good gracious, you can definitely hear the very noisy point shoes (it was REALLY annoying during the "Dance of the Little Swans" sequence from Act I Scene 2 :mad: ).

I'd like to know how they managed to block out nearly completely the noise of the point shoes on the 2007 DVD release of Swan Lake (Decca 074 3216 7) without interfering with the great sound of the orchestra and even the applause from the audience. :dunno:

Digital editing and mixing. It's been available for some 30 years.

So why wasn't it used in the 2005 video? Because, in case you hadn't noticed, the video companies seem to consider their ballet market to be second-class citizens, so grateful for the crumbs we get that the quality doesn't matter. :(

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the video companies seem to consider their ballet market to be second-class citizens, so grateful for the crumbs we get that the quality doesn't matter. :mad:

:dunno:

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Digital editing and mixing. It's been available for some 30 years.

So why wasn't it used in the 2005 video? Because, in case you hadn't noticed, the video companies seem to consider their ballet market to be second-class citizens, so grateful for the crumbs we get that the quality doesn't matter. :mad:

By the way, I saw the new Decca DVD of The Nutcracker (the Mikhail Shemiakin production) and like the Swan Lake DVD recording, they extensively edited out the sound of the point shoes and turned up the sound of the orchestra and audience applause. (A bit off-topic, but Shemiakin's version of The Nutcracker has a very strange feel compared to the versions we all see at Christmas. :dunno: )

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When I listened carefully to the 2007 Decca Swan Lake DVD played on my computer (I have a new US$150 set of computer speakers!) and it appears the way they eliminated most of the sound of the point shoes was to use extremely directional microphones that pick up mostly the sound of the orchestra and the audience clapping. That's why it was so jarring to compare this DVD to on older video of the same ballet, which didn't use these highly-directional microphones and you can hear the point shoes very clearly. :)

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I have noticed that shoes seem to be louder on video than in real life--for example when watching a performance at the Kirov Academy in person, shoe noise was minimal, but on the video it is quite loud.

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For some reason I take pleasure in listening to the sound of point shoes on both DVD and the stage. The sound reminds me of the dancers need to engage with the material world. They are working - and the sound reminds me of how hard they are working. When the Shades run to the wings I am pleased to hear them. I know it seems weird but the sound earths the ballet for me in a good way.

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I used to smash/mash mine in doorjambs, stomp on the box, pound them with hammers, bend them (almost in half), scrape down the shank (since there were no half or 3/4 shanks then), put alcohol on them to soften, glue to harden, snip/sew/darn tips etc.etc.etc. Mostly because in my day, we had fewer choices of maker, width, shank, box, wings and I had to do everything possible to make them work. I also wore different shoes (and fixes) based on which ballet(s) we performed. Softest possible for Les/La Sylphide or Giselle, harder for the Petipas (4 acts and classical vs romantic technique meant a lot more pointe work!), and contemporary works. Did shoes (good or bad) affect my foot physiology? Probably, but more attention to such matters from schools/instructors would have helped too. They told us what brands were available, but rarely provided detailed analysis of which "models" would work best for our feet or technique.

I remember that article about Gelsey and paying close attention to what she did to her shoes. I also own a book (I think titled: Ballet Shoes) which tells in detail what many famous dancers (mostly from '70's or earlier) did to their shoes to make them usable. I learned a few more techniques for "deconstructing" my shoes from them. I was very envious of those in larger companies, or more VIP than myself, who had a deal with individual makers or lasts.

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Balanchine technique -- o WHY do I think I know this? I read it somewhere -- in RELEVE is to spring onto the balls of the feet and then roll through hte toes. And the reverse coming down. I saw a video of Kyra Nichols dong this and it was astounding. But that was 20 years ago and I'm probably misremembering. The Cecchetti method, and Vaganova took it from him, is to spring onto the pointes, moving the toes inward to where the weight was centered before the releve. THe old Russian way (i got this from Vaganova's book) was to roll through the feet, in hte French manner.

And in taking a pique, teachers give a lot of attention to which edge of hte box touches the floor first. In Freeds, which have a wide square box, this might be easier to control han in the pointier Russian shoes.

WOuld someone who knows better than I confirm this?

Further random lore -- when hte Royal Ballet performed in France after the war, French critics were amazed by the quietness of the English dancers'[ shoes -- "divine silence."

In any case, the releve is not nearly so noisy as landing from jumps.

I have certainly seen a teacher have a pointe class do their sautes again and again and LISTEN, getting them quieter and quieter -- and ask them to dance as if they had a headache, or a basket of eggs on their heads -- it DOES soften the footwork.

Sometimes it seems to be the stage itself that's noisy. In Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, where the Kirov and Bolshoi havve been performing for hte last few years when htey appear in the Bay Area, there's a section of hte stage that seems to be noisy -- it's like between the first and second wings, moderately downstage. Every ballet company makes more racket in that area -- doing the same steps further upstage OR downstage, it's not so loud.... TYhe Kirov's fairies, the Boklshoi's swans, the Stuttgart's Veronans, the Cubans in Coppellia, (who seemed VERY loud, though NOT Lorna Feijoo, she was quiet -- and we were figuring they had to keep their corps shoes going as long as possible)... But it happens with everybody. Maybe it';s hollow under the stage there? Maybe there's some sounding-board effect that brings the sound forward from there? THere's a sprung floor, so that's not hte issue.... Very strange.

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...the Cubans in Coppellia, (who seemed VERY loud, though NOT Lorna Feijoo, she was quiet -

Because she is divine... :)

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Paul--as far as current Vaganova technique goes, as far as I know the dancers are taught both ways of getting to/from pointe--both rolling and springing, as in this day and age one really needs to be able to do both. Your description of the Balanchine style sounds correct to me, but I did not actually dance en pointe, of course.

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You know, given the fragility of pointe shoes and the fact some of them have tips as hard as dried cement, you really wonder why somebody didn't ask the likes of Nike or Reebok to use their extensive knowledge of athletic shoes in general to create a very durable, quiet-landing pointe shoe.

It would be quite a bioengineering challenge, but the final result could revolutionize ballet almost overnight. (Mind you, I'm not sure if the likes of Diana Vishneva wants to be associated with a Nike "Just Do It" commercial.... :) )

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I note there have been over seven thousand views of this topic, a subject that people obvously feel strongly about. :)

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I've just seen BRB performing in Giselle. I must say that the pointe shoes were almost silent throughout. Victoia Marr, especially, looked and sounded as though she was floating while dancing the role of Myrtha.

I notice when pointe shoes are nearly silent or are particularly noisy. As pointed out by others, the Russian companies seem very noisy to me.

Some stages do not help - for example the stage at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth is, apparently, built over a steel frame and has some VERY noisy spots where the girders are even for the quietest of dancers in whatever shoes the role requires.

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JMcN -- thank you!

Steel girders might be the explanation at Zellerbach HAll in Berkeley, too --

And Ms Feijoo has 3 things going for her, to help her dance silently: 1) she's a principal, so she gets the best shoes; 2 she dances mostly solo, so she can KIND OF dance her own trajectories, going where hte light is good and hte noise is not bad, and 3) she IS divine.

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JMcN -- thank you!

Steel girders might be the explanation at Zellerbach HAll in Berkeley, too --

And Ms Feijoo has 3 things going for her, to help her dance silently: 1) she's a principal, so she gets the best shoes; 2 she dances mostly solo, so she can KIND OF dance her own trajectories, going where hte light is good and hte noise is not bad, and 3) she IS divine.

Steel girders - interesting thought.

Zellerbach is the worst. The corps de ballet always sounds like John Wayne's cattle herd in Red River.

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Zellerbach is the worst. The corps de ballet always sounds like John Wayne's cattle herd in Red River.

I've actually walked the stage at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA and even wearing a thickly-padded pair of New Balance "755" running shoes whenever I start hopping up and down or stomp on the stage floor you can really hear it. I'm surprised they haven't padded the stage floor whenever a ballet performance occurs.

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Wow! I haven't been over here in awhile! This topic certainly caught my interest!! :)

A few things:

1. Professional ballet dancers may choose virtually any pointe shoe, for the most part. Many ADs won't care what you have on your feet as long as they are quiet!!!! To that end, point no. 2-

2. It is in many contracts here in the US that a dancer is responsible for keeping her shoes quiet for performances. And-

3. There is no such thing as a manufacturer's contract with an American ballet company where all dancer must wear their brand; that is one of those urban ballet myths.

4. Having said that, teachers sometimes are my worst enemy because they want "all their students in __". Usually it's because that's what they wore. That doesn't work because feet are as different as snowflakes!

5. Different brands of pointes are constructed using different methods. Some are quiet- some not. Freeds are notoriously quiet because they are made form natural flour-based paste. The newer-engineered glue shoes tend to be louder, HOWEVER, if a dancer is taking care of her shoes properly, she can both make them last longer and make her performance pairs quiet.

6. Technique has suffered in more recent years in favor of tricks over artistry. To that end, dancers haven't learned the subleties of foot articulation- they are too busy trying to use their knees as earrings, and trying to break the sound barrier by spinning. :dry:

7. Can the brand of shoes that a dancer chooses change her feet? Absolutely. That is why choosing a shoe that will conform to the dancer's feet is important; you don't want a shoe where the dancer's feet have to conform to the shoe.

8. There are space-age materials currently in use in several styles, and one brand of pointe shoes. They have their niche, but as stated above, the feet need to already be shaped like the shoe, or else, the dancer is in for a world of hurt. On top of that, these shoes typically lose a bit aesthetically. They are however, very quiet.

In my opinion, Russian-made shoes are much, much harder than other brands. That combined with the different technique focus, can make a Russian corps louder. But I'm willing to overlook the noise in favor of the symmetry. :)

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:):bow:

I find the sound of Pointe Shoes, and Male Dancers landing heavily , spoils the illusion, it is totally un-acceptable. Although the stage can sometimes be to blame, it is mostly the fact the Dancers have not prepared their shoes properly. It is a learned art, and actually takes quite a lot of time. Whilst as already mentioned the Pointe shoes do vary, a well broken pair, not only improves the shape of the foot, it prevents the noise that is un-welcome. I am sure that in the past especially in The Royal Ballet, we never heard the noise that seems to prevail nowadays. Most of the Dancers used Freed shoes. The case of noisy Male Dancers, is due to the control in their landing skills.

More often these days, Ballet Mats are used on the stages, which could have an effect on foot noise, one way or the other.

I would like to add to the comments made earlier about the Bolshoi in Le Fille de Pharoah, and add some other DVD's to this, The Paris Opera Etoile's, shows a rehearsal of Swan Lake, where the Dancers sound like a herd of Ponies, and plus Aurelie Dupont's shoes in the Neum. Sylvia Pas de deux, with Manuel Legris, in the final Act, are also quite noisy, it would be interesting to know what make shoes she wears.

However on a recent visit to see La Dame aux Camellias with Agnes Letescu, and M.A. Gilot in Signes, I did not notice the sound of shoes, maybe it was because Signes has very loud recorded music, and we were in the first row by the Orchestra for L.D.A.C.

:dry: :foot: :) All the same, I hate Shoe Noise, it ruins the performance for me. And makes me cross to think with just a little more care and preparation it would be greatly reduced or simply not there. If the two Madame's De Val. & Rambert were still alive I doubt if the problem would exist in the UK.

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I think what is happening within the past few years is the artistic split between supporters (pun not intended!) of traditional pointe shoes and supporters of the pointe shoe from Gaynor Minden, the first pointe shoe that uses the same research used to develop modern athletic shoes from the likes of New Balance, Reebok, etc.

I do think that because of the vastly improved comfort and durability and quieter landing impact the Gaynor Minden shoe, you will start seeing more and more pointe shoe manufacturers going for modern designs, regardless of what "purists" say about the artistic integrity of traditional shoes. Indeed, one thing that could really increase the acceptance of Gaynor Minden and its upcoming related competitors is medical insurance requirements worldwide, given the numerous foot injuries of professional ballet dancers using traditional pointe shoes.

By the way, remember what I said earlier about wondering why the likes of Nike, Adidas, etc. aren't in the pointe shoe business? Given how incredibly advanced the research athletic shoe companies have done in the past 30 years, it wouldn't take much for one of these to develop a well-padded and durable pointe shoe that can be custom-fitted for each dancer. Mind you, like I said earlier, would the likes of someone like Diana Vishneva want to be showcased in a Nike "Just Do It" commercial, though. :thumbsup:

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Sorry sacto, but I think that boiling it down to a purists vs. supporters of the pointe shoe from Gaynor Minden is simplifying the issue. :thumbsup:

It is important for dancers to be wearing the proper pointe shoes for their feet, period. That means some dancers can wear Gaynors- many can't, just as some dancers can wear Russian shoes, some Capezio, etc. :)

There are many factors to take into consideration when fitting pointe shoes, among them the shape, width, depth of the feet; the arch and instep height; the length of the toes; the ankle articulation; strength; rotation and ability to maintain it; how much the foot shrinks when pointed; whether their are any congenital factors to consider; spaces between toes; it goes on and on.

There are also some downfalls with the 'new' shoes; weakening ankles, bunions, and an inability to sense the floor are some problems that are currently faced, however obviously not by every dancer who wears them. That is why they are currently a niche-market shoe.

But aside from that, traditional pointe shoes do not have to be loud. It really is a matter of technique and preperation that will solve the noisiness problem. :wink:

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Clara 76,

I can understand your issues, but the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe is only the first step (quite literally!) in finally addressing the issue of dancer foot comfort and landing quietness.

That's why the likes of a Nike, Adidas, etc. with their extensive experience in athletic shoe technology should look at developing a highly-advanced pointe shoe as a "showcase" for its shoe technology, possibly with a lot of customization to address the issue of proper shoe fitment for each individual dancer. Such a shoe will not only address the issue of noisy pointe shoe landings (which is the subject of this message thread! :thumbsup: ), but also help extend the careers of ballet dancers from not suffering so many foot injuries.

By the way, I think one ballet that really accentuates the problem of noisy pointe shoes is Swan Lake, especially Act I Scene 2 with its numerous dancers all moving at once and in sync on stage.

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Well, when dancers are fit properly in the correct shoes for them, they are much less likely to develop injuries that can be caused by pointe shoes (space-age or traditional), and will likely not experience the "pain" that people speak about.

I know some professional dancers whose feet you would not think belong to dancers. I guess what I'm trying to say is that not all dancers experience pain and discomfort and injuries caused by pointe shoes.

And because of the fact that traditional paste shoes can be made as quiet as space-age technology, plus they have the added benefit of the dancer being able to sense the floor, I think that both types of shoes will continue have a place in the market.

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I think I am correct in saying I remember at least with Freeds, Gamba and Porcelli, Dancers going to have their feet charted and measured, and a record and pattern made for their point shoes. :foot: When new shoes arrived they would all be named and numbered so the Shoe Mistress could ensure they were all stored in separate cubicles for each Dancer. In addition they had to be sprayed for protection against insects which cause damage. In their original state they would be made of pink satin, and would be dyed in the ROH workshop if a different colour was required to match a costume.

I still maintain it is up to the Dancer in question to ensure their shoes are correctly broken in, despite the make or type.

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