Ballet Training

Combatting Swamp Shoe: How to Extend The Life of Your Pointe Shoes in Hot and Humid Weather

Getty Images

Houston Ballet principal Jessica Collado recalls dancing Giselle's Myrtha on an outdoor stage in the thick of a Texan summer. "At the beginning of the act my shoes still had some life in them, but when I bourréed off to go to my grave at the end, there was literally nothing left of them," she says. "They completely died."

While some pointe shoe brands are built with synthetic materials (making them longer lasting), most shoes are still made out of organic components like burlap and paper, which are incredibly susceptible to humidity. "The more moisture there is, either in the air or from your foot sweating, the faster your shoes will break down," says ThePointeShop founder Josephine Lee. Whether you're spending your summer performing outdoors or training in a crowded studio, muggy weather will have a huge impact on your shoes. Here are some tips to make it through.


Glue Is a Girl's Best Friend

Collado, who's spent her whole career in the South, has found that gluing her shoes far extends their lives. "I usually Jet-glue them in the box, up the sides and along the shank, after I've worn them once or twice and they're a little bit broken in," she says.

Washington Ballet dancer Katherine Barkman glues inside her shoes' boxes before wearing them to help them last even longer. Formerly a principal with Ballet Manila, Barkman is an expert when it comes to dancing in a tropical environment. "Our main studio was open-air, with only three walls, so when it was 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity it was no joke," she says. After gluing, Barkman recommends leaving your shoes standing upright to dry someplace cool, like a closet. "The longer they sit, the better it will work," she says. "If you have a summer intensive coming up, I'd start gluing your shoes a week or two before." Remember that a little bit of glue goes a long way; experiment on an old pair of shoes first to find what works for you.

Collado preparing her shoes before class

Casey Ayala, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Swap Them Out

Summer intensives often recommend bringing a pair of shoes per week. While dancers tend to use one pair at a time, Lee urges students to rotate through their shoes instead. "You can have different pointe shoes for each day of the week, or if you have very sweaty feet or are in a very humid area, you can change your shoes throughout the day," she says. Barkman suggests writing the date that you start breaking in each pair inside, so that you can be strategic about which shoes you wear when. "Save your harder shoes for pointe class or partnering," she says. "Don't wear that pair for a class where you could get away with a softer shoe."

Collado rotates through her toe pads, as well. "They transfer moisture to the pointe shoe," she says. She carries four to five pairs at a time, and switches them out with her shoes between rehearsals. For summer, Lee recommends toe pads with a wicking material or lambswool. "A completely gel pad will create a pool of sweat inside your shoe and make your shoe break down a little bit faster."

Barkman swapping out her shoes backstage

Courtesy Barkman

Ventilation Is Key

Giving your shoes a chance to dry out is essential. Lee suggests carrying a mini battery-operated fan in your dance bag, and setting it up by shoes you're not wearing throughout the day. "Never put your pointe shoes inside of your dance bag," she adds. "Always pull toe pads out of your shoes, and carry them in a mesh bag hanging outside."

Once home at night, it's important to lay your shoes flat to dry. Barkman swears by placing them next to an air conditioner to suck out the moisture, while Collado prefers heat, laying them by the lamps in her dressing room. Lee suggests stuffing your shoes with paper towels overnight to absorb moisture and help retain their shape. "You don't want your shoes to be a burden to you," says Barkman. "Put in the time each night so that you're prepared to handle anything that comes your way the next day."

News
Alice Pennefather, Courtesy ROH

You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)

Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of:

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by BLOCH
Courtesy BLOCH

Today's ballet dancer needs a lot from a pointe shoe. "What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now," says New York City Ballet shoe manager Linnette Roe. "They are expected to go harder, longer days. They are expected to go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day."

The team at BLOCH developed their line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address dancer's most common complaints about the fit and performance of their pointe shoes. "It's a scientific take on the pointe shoe," says Roe. Dancers are taking notice and Stretch Pointe shoes are now worn by stars like American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who stars in BLOCH's latest campaign for the shoes.

We dug into the details of Stretch Pointe's most game-changing features:

Keep reading... Show less
Viral Videos

What do Diana Vishneva, Olga Smirnova, Kristina Shapran and Maria Khoreva all have in common? These women, among the most impressive talents to graduate from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in recent years, all studied under legendary professor Lyudmila Kovaleva. Kovaleva, a former dancer with the Kirov Ballet (now the Mariinsky), is beloved by her students and admired throughout the ballet world for her ability to pull individuality and artistry out of the dancers she trains. Like any great teacher, Kovaleva is remarkably generous with her wealth of knowledge; it seems perfect, then, that she appears as the Fairy of Generosity in this clip from a 1964 film of the Kirov's The Sleeping Beauty.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Careers
Ali Cameron, Courtesy Queensland Ballet

An artistic director's position was far from Li Cunxin's mind when the Brisbane-based Queensland Ballet came calling in 2012. Since his retirement from the stage in 1999, the Chinese-Australian dancer had embarked on a highly successful career at the helm of a stockbroking firm. His wife, former dancer and current Queensland ballet mistress Mary McKendry Li, changed his mind, Li remembers. "She said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to give something back to the art form that we both have benefited so much from?' "

Seven years later, Li's contribution has been dramatic. Queensland Ballet, once a struggling choreographer-led company, has become one of Australia's most exciting repertoire ensembles, with Liam Scarlett on board as artistic associate. The budget has more than quadrupled, to over $20 million USD, and Li has launched not one but three major construction projects, with world-class headquarters, a theater and a new academy all in progress.

Keep reading... Show less