Ballet Training
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By the time Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre soloist Gabrielle Thurlow reached high school, she knew she wanted to pursue a professional ballet career. But to do so, she had to make the tough decision to leave her local studio in Buffalo, New York, to train at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School. "I wanted a school attached to a professional company, where I could train full-time," she says. With her parents' support, she approached her teachers a year in advance to begin talking to them about leaving. "It's a difficult conversation to have," she says. "They trained me, and we had this special relationship. But as former professional dancers, they understood where I was coming from."

Dancers often face this decision as they plan their pre-professional training. They are forever indebted to the teachers who molded them, and broaching the subject of leaving can seem like an impossible conversation. While it's normal to be nervous, there are ways to sensitively navigate the situation, without burning any bridges.

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Nadia Randall performing a pointe shoe fitting at The Shoe Room. Photo by Sonja Seiler, Courtesy Randall.

For many dancers, the quest for the perfect pointe shoe is a long one, littered with years' worth of rejected makes and models. With countless options out there, how should you navigate the many brands and trends to find your ideal pair? We spoke with Nadia Randall, general manager and fitting specialist at The Shoe Room—the official store of Canada's National Ballet School—about everything from online ordering to DIY customization.

What are some of the top mistakes dancers make in finding the right shoe?

Prioritizing the aesthetic of the pointe shoe over the functionality. The shoe's support should be foremost. Dancers may disagree, especially when they have been told by teachers that the shoes should look a certain way. But an ill-fitting shoe will look worse on a dancer's foot as she breaks it in incorrectly. It's about making your feet look the best that they can based on their shape. You can't change anatomy.

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