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canbelto

Ballet shoes, and other trivial stuff

55 posts in this topic

I've read somewhere -- perhaps the Daneman biography but I am not sure-- that Fonteyn wore Freeds.

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Here's a good picture of a dancer going either tightless or with nude tights (I think she's tightless), and there's been some attempt to wear nude skin-color shoes and ribbons. But I don't understand why Chloe would go tight-less. She's not "exotic" at all.

ETA: wow, shoes have certainly gotten boxier over the years.

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Canbelto

No, people have stopped doctoring photographs to make dancers look more etherial!

Jane

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Here's a good picture of a dancer going either tightless or with nude tights (I think she's tightless), and there's been some attempt to wear nude skin-color shoes and ribbons. But I don't understand why Chloe would go tight-less. She's not "exotic" at all.

ETA: wow, shoes have certainly gotten boxier over the years.

None of the women in the current Royal Ballet revival of Daphnis and Chloe wear tights (with the exception of the Nymphs). I imagine this is the choice of the designer (John Craxton) as the last time this was done with the old Craxton decors (he revised them slightly for this revival) they did wear tights. It may be that he wants them bare legged is because they are village girls.

The dancer shown is, of course, Alina Cojocaru who notoriously wears Gaynor Minden shoes and I have to say I don't find her feet at lovely as the rest of her!

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The dancer shown is, of course, Alina Cojocaru who notoriously wears Gaynor Minden shoes and I have to say I don't find her feet at lovely as the rest of her!

I have to agree, the overly boxy Gaynor Mindens are not aesthetically attractive. However, for someone with very arched feet like Cojocaru, they might provide the proper support.

Here's a picture of Alina's super-boxy shoes. I have to say, they do kind of mar her otherwise line. But that's just nitpicking. Mostly I thank my lucky stars that there's a ballerina as lovely as Cojocaru.

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I think what looks good depends on the shape of the foot and leg of each dancer. I think, for example, Gillian Murphy's shoes look just fine. I've never seen Cojocaru in person, and can't judge by the photo, since angle in photography and film can mean everything.

But the most critical thing for me is that the shoe support the feet of the dancer. If a shoe can help a dancer to save her feet from debilitating injury, I'm willing to forego any differences in aesthetics. (Speaking as someone who gets incredibly crabby at the slightest shoe pinch...)

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But the most critical thing for me is that the shoe support the feet of the dancer. If a shoe can help a dancer to save her feet from debilitating injury, I'm willing to forego any differences in aesthetics. (Speaking as someone who gets incredibly crabby at the slightest shoe pinch...)

I think it's also cultural. I've noticed that Russians tend to perform in boxier shoes. That was something I noticed when I saw the Kirov -- the corps de ballet all wore shoes with very boxy platforms that made more noise than I was used to. They weren't that attractive to look at, but the beauty of their corps de ballet (uniformity, port te bras, etc) more than made up for the fact that their shoes didn't look all sleek and slim.

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Doesn't form follow function? A stronger shank will give a shallower arch, a broader base of support requires a boxier box. A more durable (ergo economical) shoe will start out with sturdier boxes and shanks, until (if the materials are malleable) they start to break down.

Gaynor Mindens are said to help dancers balance, but I notice that dancers who wear them -- in general -- have trouble rolling smoothly through the foot. And they are said to last many times longer than traditional shoes.

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Most pointe shoes are still made the traditional way using layers of fabric and special pastes. If you were to cut open a pair of handmade traditional paste pointe shoes, much like Fonteyn's (which, by the way, were 'Z' makers size 4 zero X...really narrow!!), you would see all natural materials. The stiffened front part of the shoe (the box) supports the metatarsals and boxes do indeed come in many shapes.

Most Russian pointe shoes are wide in the bunion joint area, and then taper down to the platform. Australian-made shoes are squarer. Many years ago, all pointe shoes were made tapered, so the person with a squarer foot was just out of luck! Today, almost the opposite has occurred, with tapered shoes being harder to find.

There are so many options out there now though, with custom shoes, that it almost doesn't matter when you become pro because you can tweak your shoes in any way to suit you best.

Most professional dancers wear custom made shoes, and the color of satins that all companies offer, despite it being custom, are not particularly varied. So when you see a ballerina with skin-toned shoes, she has either used her own pancake make-up, or someone has custom dyed them to suit her. Sansha has just come out with a darker colored satin they are calling 'Flesh' I believe, and they are the first pointe shoe company to offer a darker color in a stock shoe.

I have dyed pointe shoes many times for dancers, and it is very time-consuming!!

Not as time consuming as creating a pair of pointe shoes though. Most shoes are made by hand and created inside out. They start with the specs (specifications) the dancer requires like: Short pleats, 4.5 inch vamp, 1 3/4 inch sides and extra material at the heel, and go from there.

Shanks, which are actually inside the shoe, provide for support in the arch and when up en pointe. Many professional dancers do not need much support in that way, so they will ask for either a 3/4 shank, or perhaps a phillip's insole, which is little more than a piece of cardboard! The 3/4 shank ends right at the top of the arch, which can provise a better line as well. Most stock shanks are made of leather.

Gaynor Minden's are created differently. The boxing and inner shank is one full connected piece. It sort of looks like a black plastic ladle. That is why there is a difference when the dancer is attempting to roll through- the one-piece design sort of acts as a rebound.

Just some fun facts I hope you all will enjoy!

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Many thanks for such a detailed explanation Clara 76 :wink:

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Clara,

Thanks for such a detailed explanation! Now I have a question: what do dancers like Alessandra Ferri or Svetlana Zakharova do for support? Their feet are so super-arched (a friend calls them "banana feet") that I imagine it'd be harder for them to balance without a super-strong shank to keep their feet solid. My friend's daughter has started on pointe this year, and her feet are "perfect" for pointe shoes: just the right arch, strong toes, etc. so in class she hasn't been crying with pain, unlike the other girls, for whom pointe shoes are very painful initially.

I've also always wondered if Fonteyn's feet would have had less problems if she wore a more modern pointe shoe. When I see her dance her shoes are so tapered and narrow, and she famously did not have very strong, ideally arched feet to support her dancing. If she had been in Gaynor Mindens I wonder if she would have developed the extremely painful arthritis and all the other feet problems that plagued her throughout her career (as well as the snotty comments).

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Alessandra Ferri, from what I've seen, uses very long vamped shoes. So while the average vamp may be 3.5-4 inches, hers look to be maybe 5. A longer vamp will offer more support to those banana-footed people. Actually, sometimes a strong shank can have an opposite effect on a high arch, so it depends upon the personal preference. The highly arched foot can sometimes, actually be a weaker foot, though it doesn't appear weak. That is because of its superior flexibility. People with banana feet tend to have to work constantly on strength issues.

It appears that Svetlana Zakharova wears Russian pointe shoes. They also appear to have longer vamps.

I don't think that the shape of the foot matters as much as the individual's tolerance for pain. It is what it is, which is all your body weight concentrated onto the bones of your feet, and therefore, it is crucial that the proper training is already there in order to have strong muscles protecting the bones.

As far as Fonteyn goes, I suppose we'll never know. Many non-dancers have arthritis, and they've never danced en pointe!!

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Another dancer with extremely arched feet is Anna Antonicheva. My daughter has one of her pointe shoes. The shank on it is completely unbendable (this after dancing a full-length Giselle in them). It is rock hard. Her feet are so flexible they just about spill out of her shoes when she points them. I can see why she needs such a strong base in her pointe shoe to keep her upright!

Anna Antonicheva as Kitri

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I've mentioned this before, but a dancer I've noticed that wears shoes with an EXTREMELY wide platform that makes her feet look very large (especially compared to the rest of her body) is Alina Cojocaru. I found some pictures:

Cojocaru as Giselle

Cojocaru as Juliet

Cojocaru as Nikya

Juliet again

I've never seen a dancer needing such a wide platform. I wonder if she has bunions that make her feet look larger, or whether she just prefers having an extremely wide, boxy platform. They look much wider than the shoes on Gillian Murphy:

Murphy

Murphy again

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I've mentioned this before, but a dancer I've noticed that wears shoes with an EXTREMELY wide platform that makes her feet look very large (especially compared to the rest of her body) is Alina Cojocaru. I wonder if she has bunions that make her feet look larger, or whether she just prefers having an extremely wide, boxy platform. They look much wider than the shoes on Gillian Murphy:

Gillian is an average, tallish girl with average-sized feet (for her height). Alina is short/small with large feet. There's an advantage to having larger feet, eg, a solid base for balances and turns, and lots of push off for jumps, but the porportions can look odd at times. It is much harder to dance on small feet, esp in pointe shoes, when you are a tall, large, woman such as Veronika Part.

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Back to the original post, I love the look of pancaked shoes. I think the shiny satin conjures up some fairy tale dream little girls have of wanting to be ballerinas for the costuming: all that shiny pink, pretty ribbons, and frilly tulle!

I prefer a sleeker, cleaner line. I do like to be able to delineate the shoe from the leg, but I like it when pointe shoes look almost like flat slippers that happen to have a platform. I want to say the pancaked look is utilitarian, but that word has a bad connotation for pointe shoes. Say you see a beautiful woman in street clothes and no makeup, her beauty is all the more amazing because you can see that it's real. She might wear make up to enhance her beauty, but she doesn't really need it. Same thing with flashy pointe shoes. De-glossed shoes look utilitarian in the way a bare leotard and tights look utilitarian. A stripped down body doing something amazing is even more powerful, because we can see that it has nothing to do with nice lighting or pretty pinkness. To me, it allows the ballerina to have responsibility for what she's doing: sure, she needs the shoe, but the shoe doesn't steal her spotlight. I guess I can't explain it, but I find it very beautiful.

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I think you explained it very clearly.

You make it clear that you like the pancaked shoe for leotard ballets, and I presume also for chiffon ballets. But for a ballet like Sleeping Beauty or Jewels -- so "dressed up" -- would you still prefer the stripped-down and basic beauty of the unshiny shoe?

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I think you explained it very clearly.

You make it clear that you like the pancaked shoe for leotard ballets, and I presume also for chiffon ballets. But for a ballet like Sleeping Beauty or Jewels -- so "dressed up" -- would you still prefer the stripped-down and basic beauty of the unshiny shoe?

Actually, yes. I always prefer it, execpt maybe in drag scenarios, like Cinderella's step sisters. I think the pancaked shoe enhances Princess Aurora's youthful purity. Although now that you mention it, I could go for a shiny shoe in the Rubies section of Jewels, because there's a harshness to it.

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I wonder if perhaps un-pancaked shoes are more historically accurate, come to think of it. Would dancers back in 18/19C France have wanted to de-shine their satin slippers?

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Interesting question.

With no electrical lighting, shiny fabric would have accentuated the feet on a dimly lit stage -- dim by today's (sometimes overlit) standards. That may have been the reason for employing satin in the first place.

Just a guess.

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I just rewatched Pharoah's Daughter, and Maria Alexandrova as Ramze wears brownish tights, with brownish pointe shoes.

Picture: Alexandrova

I must say that I find the look ugly. Then I saw the recent Maya Plisetskaya gala, and the Bolshoi "street dancers" in Don Quixote also have the brownish pointe shoes. I don't like this trend.

And I still prefer the shiny satin, especially if the dancer has beautiful feet. For instance, look at the satiny beauty here:

Sylvie Guillem

Or here:

Alla Sizova as Florine

On the other hand, no tights, with blue pointe shoes, is kinda ugly:

Lopatkina, in Blue Satin Shoes

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I just rewatched Pharoah's Daughter, and Maria Alexandrova as Ramze wears brownish tights, with brownish pointe shoes.
When the Bolshoi brought Pharaoh's Dtr to New York last summer, I saw both Alexandrova and Zakharova in the role. They appeared not to be wearing tan tights but rather no tights whatsoever. I dislike it very much. I think the idea is to make the dancers appear more "natural," but there's little in ballet that's natural to begin with.

I agree, canbelto, that tan shoes aren't as pretty as pink ones. But tightlessness is even worse.

Just one gal's opinion. Well, two, actually. :wink:

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Cojocaru has severe bunions, the reason for the very wide box on her shoes.

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I think a lot of it has to do with the style of the piece. I dislike classical ballet with the nude colored shoes. Its just not my style. But anything contemporary, in my opinion, is much better with nude shoes. For example any of Alonzo King's choreography would just look funny with the delicacy of pinkish, shiny pointe shoes. It would soften the look too much. So for more contemporary, "fierce" pieces, i definitely prefer the no tights with nude shoes. But for the classics the classic look is a must. It just depends on what kind of a look the choreographer is going for.

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