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Article on pointe shoes in The New Yorker


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#1 dirac

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 03:17 PM

There's no link to it online, but the newest issue of The New Yorker, which I don't yet have, contains a piece by Kevin Conley called "Pointe Counterpointe" about a supposed controversy regarding same. Has anyone read it?

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 05:28 PM

The article has to do with the Gaynor Minden shoe, "pink satin on the outside, but with Nike-style high-tech innards designed to protect the feet. The shoes are quiet. They save companies money: a pair costs twenty dollars more than the traditional shoes but lasts five times longer. They have thin inner and outer linings made of shock-absorbent foam, to ease discomfort and cut down on injuries. And they don't need to be broken in."

Gillian Murphy of ABT wears them. But she says that Suki Schorer approached her once in class and asked, "Why do you wear those space-age shoes?" Regarding the supposed reduction in injuries, Suki is quoted, "Ballet isn't about health. It's an art form." Melissa Hayden, Murphy's mentor, at the North Carolina School of the Arts, did not take kindly to Schorer's comments. There's a photo of the shoes on the feet of ABT's Maria Ricetto. They almost look like regular pointe shoes -- but not quite.

Kevin Conley feels the shoe will eventually gain wide acceptance. His article should be read by anyone interested in Pointe Shoe Topics.

#3 BW

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Posted 02 December 2002 - 06:12 PM

Should be interesting to read...but there's an awful lot of controversy about these shoes in general - most teachers of ballet that I've met or spoken with don't like them for their students. I suppose it could be different for the professional dancer...but many of these dancers don't care for them either.

Then again, maybe they've "improved" them?:)

#4 Farrell Fan

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 08:56 AM

Just want to point out that we're talking about the Dec. 9 issue of The New Yorker. On the cover it shows cars flying over EZPass toll booths.

#5 BW

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 02:29 PM

You know, I didn't even notice the cover today when I bought it! I really hate that little flap they put on the outside that lists what they think are the good stories - when did they start doing that? Why spoil those great covers?! Was that a Tina idea?

I read the article - it was interesting and I got a few good chuckles out of it too. Time will tell, eh?

P.S. Thanks Calliope for noticing that EZR way through!

#6 citibob

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 02:43 PM

It is commonly known that professional photographers take many pictures for every "keeper". An short write-up on the subject in National Geographic made a comment: it doesn't matter how many pictures the photographer took; all that matters is the final picture.

Same thing with dancing. From an artistic perspective, it doesn't matter how many pairs of pointe shoes you go through. For that reason, GMs are a hard sell from the logevity standpoint, because longevity of the shoe is one of the less important characteristics.

But some dancers seem to prefer them for other reasons, that they fit better. And other dancers they don't fit very well at all. C'est la vie.

#7 balletmama

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 03:31 PM

I think the article is right on the mark in poking a little fun at the I Need to Suffer Or It's Not Art mentality. For some dancers, Gaynor Mindens are wonderful, and I really don't think they deserve excommunication for that! Fortunately, most technology has progressed some since the late 19th century; tennis racquets, for example, are a whole lot better today than back when I was a kid (only a few decades after Taglioni ;) ).

#8 Calliope

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Posted 03 December 2002 - 03:39 PM

My favorite part, and I'm sure it was a slip
after Hayden responds to Suki's comments, they give a phonetic of how to say Suki's name "Sucky"

I laughed so hard, I fell out of my Nike's!

I thought the article was... good for conversation, the kind that makes people wonder why anyone would want to be a ballet dancer and have to wear pointe shoes.
And Jennifer Tinsley tearing her tendon, but being thrilled she danced while it's being torn, but she got promoted!

"This one time, it was absolutely worth it to me to dance through injury until my tendon actually tore...I knew it was tearing but I didn't want to stop, because one of the soloists was out-I was in the corps then.... I was in horrible pain, it hurt to walk"
"Two weeks later my tendon tore-onstage. And I was out for nine months. But I got promoted"

That anyone would be proud of that is beyond me, she's lucky she didn't end her career.



The cover "EZ R Pass" is classic :)

#9 atm711

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 01:19 PM

Why is it that in order for dancers to wear a pair of pointe shoes they must:

"...crack the hard leather shank to make it pliable...then they take a farrier's rasp to the leather sole to give it some grip. To soften up the hard box of the toe, they crush it underfoot or slam a door on it...then they bang the pointes on a concrete wall for a few minutes which deadens the racket the shoes make on the stage floor..."

Given the fact that dancers have a 'favorite cobbler' that they swear by---and that the shoes are made to order on a cast of their foot---why all of the above shenanigans?---or do they really hate the darn things?

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 02:58 PM

Some people don't do all that - they just use 'em straight from the box and everything's fine. Others do all that because they want the shoe to feel like a natural extension of their own flesh, and so, no shoe having been found that gives them quite that feeling, they cobble their own. Others are just doing it for no reason at all. Sort of trying to be like Pavlova, who really worked her shoes over before she used them. And most dancers don't have a custom shoe. They wear "stock shoes".

#11 BW

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 03:23 PM

Thanks Mel, the voice of reason as ever! Not being a dancer, but watching my daughter who is a ballet student, I can attest to the fact that she does very little to her new pointe shoes... a little bending that's it. :)

#12 vagansmom

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Posted 04 December 2002 - 03:57 PM

I'm with Balletmama when it comes to "I Need to Suffer or It's Not Art". Never could understand such nonsense. If one can believe all the books and movies, apparently that's what riled up so many of Mozart's contemporaries - he didn't suffer enough yet still churned out glorious music.

Re GM's themselves: I like 'em (well, the IDEA of them - they didn't work for my daughter). She wished they had. I figure they're the beta product and eventually GM or another producer will come up with a better model but you have to start somewhere. I'm glad they did and I hope others follow. One has to try something new to improve on something old.

#13 Sonora

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 04:24 AM

What I found most interesting about the article was the fact that it appeared in the New Yorker at all. How long has it been since the magazine carried regular dance reviews?

This article seemed more suited to a venue such as Dancemagazine or Pointe, both with a considerably larger proportion of their readers in the "teenage female" category. While the comments by Merrill Ashley, Suki Schorer, and Melissa Hayden were amusing in a gossipy sort of way, I think I'd prefer the that the dance reviews be reinstated!

#14 Calliope

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Posted 07 December 2002 - 11:35 AM

I don't know that the article was directed at dance fans though.
If anything it was a snub to the dancers who despite technology, still choose the old fashioned way (painful and clumsy) and the whole "pain for the art"
I think Croce and Acocella (sp?)have brought an audience over though the reviews seem to be more season ending.

#15 Ray

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Posted 11 December 2002 - 06:16 AM

I half agree with Sonora--I was happy to see the piece in the New Yorker, but it would have been better as an *addition* to regularly-appearing reviews.

I think there should be more articles written about the business of dancing--an investigative piece on the unbelievably high rate of turnover among executive directors among dance companies, for instance, would be great--especially since extra-artistic personnel have so much more of a say these days, it seems, in matters of repertory and casting. (Perhaps there is a thread on this already? I'll shut up and look!)


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