Russian Pointe is working on a new line of pointe shoes in diverse shades called RP Palette.

Courtesy Russian Pointe

6 Major Dancewear Brands Announce Plans to Release Pointe Shoes in Diverse Shades

Updated on June 12, 2020

Last year, in a segment on "The Today Show" on diverse shades of pointe shoes, Dance Theatre of Harlem artistic director Virginia Johnson reflected on the groundbreaking 1970's-era performance, when DTH founder Arthur Mitchell had the company dance in dyed shoes for the first time. "When the curtain went up you saw a range of people in all different skin tones," she said. "It was the most exquisite thing to see." Yet it wasn't until 2017 that Gaynor Minden made waves as the first pointe shoe brand to offer shoes in a diverse range of shades, saving Black and Brown dancers massive amounts of time and energy spent pancaking their shoes by hand. Freed followed suit in 2018, in a collaboration with London-based Ballet Black. So Danca also offers its Toshie and Aurora models in Mocha, a shade of brown satin.


So it should come as no surprise that in the midst of nationwide protests demanding racial justice, the ballet community has turned to social media to demand that other major pointe shoe makers, including Bloch, Capezio, Repetto and Suffolk, start to make shoes in darker shades. On Tuesday Bloch released a statement online sharing the company's plans to release a line including more inclusive pointe shoe shades this fall. "We have been intently listening, reflecting on what we are doing and what we can do better and acknowledge we have not been moving fast enough," the statement says. "Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 product development was severely slowed down however we are fully committed to following through with these plans and confirm we will be introducing darker shades into our pointe shoes and Blochsox range in fall this year."

The next day, two more brands jumped on board. Russian Pointe announced that it too would release a new line in a diverse range of shades, called RP Palette Pointe Shoes. "We are thrilled to announce that the RP Palette will not only offer color matched tights, ballet slippers, ribbon and elastic, but also POINTE SHOES!," Russian Pointe posted on Instagram. Capezio will also expand its offerings with darker shades available in two of its most popular stock pointe shoe styles come fall. "We support all dancers' dreams to express themselves through the beautiful art of dance," wrote Capezio CEO Michael Terlizzi, who urged customers to continue to share their thoughts and comments via email at wecare@capezio.com.

Yesterday, Nikolay added its voice to the mix, sharing on Instagram that it had launched two new colors, called Latte and Espresso, in February, but its plans were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. "You can now place your orders for these awesome new colors!," Nikolay wrote. "We are producing them on request in any model, shank and size." The collection also includes a matte canvas tan option.

And earlier today, Grishko and Suffolk both announced on Instagram that they would be offering pointe shoes in various skin tones soon. "We will begin production as soon as the raw materials we have ordered are available," wrote Mark and Keri Suffolk, the company's founders. "Please remember most of our suppliers are not yet out of lockdown from Covid-19."

These announcements come after a two-year-old Change.org petition went viral over the weekend, garnering 169,804 signatures before closing. A similar petition directed at Capezio has 289,930 supporters just two days after its creation, and is steadily gaining more. A third petition, with just over 7,000 signatures so far, takes the plea a step forward, urging all pointe shoe companies to offer options for dancers of color, calling out in particular Capezio, Repetto and Suffolk. "If you don't fit the one shade of shoe color, you automatically feel like you don't belong," wrote Megan Watson, the creator of the Capezio petition. "Every person deserves to feel included in something they love."

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When School of American Ballet student Alexandra de Roos was 8 years old, she placed a collection box at her dance studio for others to donate their gently used dancewear. De Roos, now 17, has since turned that single collection box into a nonprofit organization that aims to minimize economic barriers in the performing arts with free dancewear and classes.

De Roos' organization, Peace Love Leotards, has collected about $2,600 of new and gently-used dancewear and $2,000 in grants and donations since formally launching in April. Dancers or studio owners can request items through a form on the organization's website.

"I knew that dancewear was really expensive and that a lot of students might not be able to do the thing that they love because it's cost-prohibitive," de Roos said. "I really wanted to create something to allow people to have the same experience of the love and joy of dance that I've been so grateful to have."

After SAB shifted its winter term online amid the COVID-19 pandemic, de Roos decided to expand Peace Love Leotards. She reached out to dance companies, resulting in partnerships with brands including Jo+Jax, Lone Reed Designs, RubiaWear and Wear Moi.

"To have them be like 'We want to help you with this and we love this idea and what you're doing is amazing,' that was really exciting to me," she said. "It was very heartwarming."

Jordan Reed, the creator of custom dancewear brand Lone Reed Designs, said she has donated seven items to Peace Love Leotards with plans to donate more consistently every quarter. Custom leotards often retail at higher prices, but Reed, a former Houston Ballet corps member, said the one-of-a-kind clothing offers an "extra bit of confidence, which can go more than a long way in a dancer's journey of training."

Paul Plesh, a sales director for Wear Moi in the United States and Canada, said the company donated 11 leotards after finding Peace Love Leotards' mission to be "commendable." Joey Dowling-Fakhrieh, the founder and creative director of Jo+Jax, said dancewear "can make a significant impact on a student's confidence, as well as how much they enjoy the process of learning dance."

De Roos has worked to expand Peace Love Leotards, Inc. rapidly in the past few months, but she first created the organization at eight years old after participating in a mentorship program with competitors in the Miss Florida and Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen pageants. The pageants, which are part of the Miss America Organization, require competitors to have personal platforms they advocate for as titleholders. As a competition dancer, de Roos instantly thought about the cost barriers to dance when wondering what her own future platform would be.

De Roos said she and her young classmates often outgrew nearly brand-new dancewear, so she approached her studio's owner about placing a collection box at the studio.

Barbara Mizell, who owns Barbara's Centré for Dance in Florida, said she was unsurprised by de Roos' proposal. De Roos always had "such a way of pushing herself and she never forgot those around her," Mizell said. As the box filled up, she distributed the dancewear to others at the studio, local schools with dance programs, and the local YMCA.

"When they could start to see that it was providing happiness for others, then it was almost like the kids couldn't wait to donate," Mizell said.

Nearly a decade after the Miss Florida organization inspired her to launch Peace Love Leotards, de Roos is now a titleholder herself, as Miss Gainesville's Outstanding Teen 2020. Her new mission for Peace Love Leotards is applying for grants, and she has already received a $1,000 grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund that will be used to fund a Title 1 school class.

"The whole organization behind Peace Love Leotards is the dancers," de Roos said. "Being able to help the dancers that are in need and being able to think about the dancewear that they're going to be receiving or have received has been truly amazing."

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