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Pad Your Pointe Shoes Like These 4 Pros

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Finding your pointe shoe match isn't the only component that affects your dancing. Smaller, but arguably just as mighty, is the padding that goes inside. Here's what four pros have found works for them.


Ballet West Principal Beckanne Sisk: Paper Towels

Beckanne Sisk and Chase O'Connell in Ballet West's Cinderella. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West.

"I use whatever paper towel they have in the restroom of wherever I am," Sisk says. "I fold them in half and then tear it down the middle. Then I take an end, fold it to the middle and wrap it around my toes," she explains. "I couldn't feel the floor with toe pads, plus they would start to smell so bad!"

Richmond Ballet's Eri Nishihara: Socks

Eri Nishihara in Gargoyles by Philip Neal. Photo by Sarah Ferguson, Courtesy Richmond Ballet.

"I cut regular cotton socks straight across just below my bunions. I'm not picky about the socks I use as long as they are not too thick," says Nishihara. "I have very wide feet, so this covers all of my toe joints without adding bulk, and I find that it allows me to have a better connection to the shoes and the floor. I also have many pairs so that I can switch them throughout the day to keep my feet fresh and dry."

Los Angeles Ballet Company Dancer Jasmine Perry: Toe Pads

Perry in George Balanchine's Four Temperaments. Photo by Reed Hutchinson, Courtesy Los Angeles Ballet.

"I used to use just a few paper towels in my shoes, but for longer ballets with little time to switch out disintegrating paper towels, I've switched to Bunheads' Ouch Pouch toe pads," Perry says. "For aches and pains in the shoe, I'll put 2nd Skin Squares on a hot spot and tape around my toe to give it a little extra cushion."

Royal Danish Ballet Principal Holly Dorger: PerfectFit Inserts

Dorger. Photo by Claus Vedfelt, Courtesy Royal Danish Ballet.

Choosing a newer take on pointe shoe padding, Dorger swears by the customizable molds from PerfectFit. The inserts last around six months, but she likes to rotate three pairs so that she always has a backup.

To make the inserts, Dorger combines a third of the white moldable putty with a third of the turquoise, spreading the mixture over the tops of her toes. Once she places the fabric cover and plastic over her feet, Dorger puts on new pointe shoes and does relevés for several minutes as any excess molding squeezes its way out of the top of the shoe. After they've set, she cuts away the extra molding as well as the section that covers her big toe. "It's probably bizarre, but I don't feel that I need any extra protection on my big toes," she explains. "But don't be afraid to play around a bit to really figure out what works for you."

Ballet Careers
Gray Davis with wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary, after his graduation from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Courtesy Trenary.

When Gray Davis retired from American Ballet Theatre in July of 2018, he moved home to South Carolina, unsure of what would come next. Last month, just over a year later, Davis graduated from the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy. Today, he's working as a deputy for the Abbeville County Sheriff's Office.

Though Davis danced in ABT's corps for 11 years and is married to soloist Cassandra Trenary, to many he's best known for saving the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks in New York City in 2017. The heroic effort earned him the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by a member of the New York State Senate. We caught up with Davis to hear about how the split second decision he made in the subway affected the course of his life, what it's been like starting a second career and what he sees as the similarities between ballet and law enforcement.

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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:

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Ballet Stars
Megan Amanda Ehrlich, Courtesy LEAP Program

Claire Sheridan wanted to change the status quo. Leading up to the 1990s, she recalls, "there was a 'shut up and dance' mind-set," and as the founder of the dance program at St. Mary's College of California and a longtime teacher in professional companies, she had seen too many dancers retire with no plan for a successful career transition. "At that time, if you thought about education and the future," she says, "you were not a committed dancer. I wanted to fight that."

With the support of St. Mary's, Sheridan developed the Liberal Education for Arts Professionals program, or LEAP, an innovative liberal-arts bachelor's degree program designed especially for professional dancers. She first presented her idea to executives at San Francisco Ballet. "Kudos to that company, because they said, 'This is great,'" she says. "Eleven of the first 18 dancers who started in August 1999 were from SFB."

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Ballet Training
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I'm a college freshman, and my dance program isn't challenging enough. We only have ballet three times a week and a few hours of modern, and my classmates aren't as dedicated as I am. There's a small dance company nearby, where I was hoping to take extra classes, but I don't have a car. I want to transfer, but I feel like I won't be in good enough shape for auditions. —Tara

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