Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop interviewed Royal Ballet of Flanders dancer Shelby Williams and her Instagram-famous alter ego, Biscuit Ballerina. First, watch Biscuit turn the tables and (hilariously) find the perfect pointe shoes for Lee. Then check out Williams' tips on customizing pointe shoes for advanced students and pros.
Pro Pointe Shoe Hacks From Biscuit Ballerina
Do you ever feel frustrated during class, wishing you could balance longer on pointe? Here, master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop shares everything you need to know about finding the perfect pointe shoes for better balances.
Sasha De Sola and Hansuke Yamamoto in George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.
Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop touches base with San Francisco Ballet principal Sasha De Sola on all of her pointe shoe hacks, from darning to stirrup tights to customizations. Plus, we think De Sola might win the award for how quickly she kills her pointe shoes. (Hint: It's under an hour).
As all bunheads know, there's so much more to dancing on pointe than sewing and bourées. In this new video, The Australian Ballet lays it all out for us, from A-Z. Or rather from "Arch" to "Zzzzzz's." Using a super fast-paced style, this four-and-a-half minute long video skips back and forth between ultra-sleek minimalism and sepia-toned nostalgia. Both educational and insider-y (see "cashews" at 0:54), this video includes some gorgeous shots (Apollo-inspired arabesques at 2:00) interspersed with quirky humor (note adorable pointe shoe bed at 3:53).
So here you go, "A to Z En Pointe." Did they miss any?
Josephine Lee exploring Oklahoma. Photo Courtesy Lee.
Earlier this summer, we followed master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop as she made her on a pointe shoe fitting tour around the West Coast and California. Now she's back, this time on a 45-day tour from California to Chicago, educating students on all things pointe shoes and helping them to find their perfect fit. Lee's making stops at top ballet companies and academies across the country, interviewing school directors and chatting with professional ballerinas to find out how they customize and break in their pointe shoes. Below, check out Lee's stop at Oklahoma City Ballet. She touches base with company soloist Amanda Popejoy and school director Penny Askew. Stay tuned for more!
From left: Misty Copeland, Ebony Williams and Ashley Murphy in pancaked shoes. Photo by Nathan Sayers for Pointe.
No two pairs of pointe shoes are the same, from their shanks to their boxes, their color to their shine. To make an array of shoes more uniform or to get them to a shade closer to your skin tone, dance teachers might ask that you "pancake" your pointe shoes before going onstage. But what does that entail, exactly? We're here to show you.
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.
Depending on your level of training or what you're doing on pointe, you might need a different strength shank. Hard shanks last longer and give you more support, but they make it more difficult to roll through; soft shanks make you stronger, faster, but they're not always the right fit for weaker ankles. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee unpacks the pros and cons of each in the below videos.
When it comes to comfort, well-worn pointe shoes beat a new pair. A fresh pair can feel constricting, while an old one molds to your feet and bends just the way you like. Not to mention, new shoes take time and effort to break in, and think of all the money spent on them throughout a dancer's training and career. So surely it makes sense to use your old pointe shoes as long as you possibly can.
Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop is taking her wares on a tour of the West Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Nevada. Lee is visiting dance schools along the way in her mobile pointe shoe van to fit ballet students. Check out her first five vlogs from the road, filled with picturesque scenery, fun facts and fitting tips—and stay tuned for the next round.
Finding the right pointe shoe is hard enough. But as any serious ballet dancer can tell you, it's only half the battle. The padding you pair with your pointe shoes plays a big role in your ability to stay on your toes pain-free (or close to it) through classes and rehearsals. When Second Skin squares alone won't cut it, there's a new generation of toe pads to provide relief.
Chances are you've seen these pads (and the telltale blue putty that comes with them) on your Instagram feed. The completely genius PerfectFit inserts are actually customized molds that fill any spaces between your toes and your shoe vamp, and help reduce pressure on commonly irritated spots like bunions. Though they've only been around for a few years, PerfectFit pads have already gained a huge pro following, including New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns, Royal Danish Ballet's Holly Dorger and Los Angeles Ballet's Bianca Bulle.
Whether you're new to pointe or looking for an added boost of strength and stability to make it through performance season, these 5 resistance band exercises will show big results—and fast. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee demonstrates a series of exercises for toes, feet and ankles, as well as lateral and vertical control, all the way up to relevé.
Because who doesn't want their feet to look as gorgeous as Sara's? (Photo by Christopher Lane)
Ah, the quest for the perfect, foot-flattering, technique-enhancing pointe shoe: It can feel like a never-ending saga. Still on the hunt for that ideal pair? Then you won't want to miss The School at Steps' annual Pointe Shoe Workshop and Fair, happening this Sunday, April 22nd, at 6:30 pm in NYC.
As always, the event—which is sponsored by Pointe—will feature an impressive panel of experts. This year's lineup includes orthopedist Dr. Andrew Price, professional fitter Mary Carpenter, master teacher Linda Gelinas, Pointe style editor Marissa DeSantis, and New York City Ballet star Sara Mearns (eee!).
New York City Ballet's shoe room. Photo by Tess Mayer.
Deep in the basement of Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater is a small, windowless space that's home to nearly 6,000 pairs of pointe shoes, neatly stacked on shelves that reach to the ceiling. It's New York City Ballet's shoe room, and for company members, it's one of the most important places in the world. Dancers frequently stop by to search for the ideal pair for a special performance, or to tweak their custom pointe shoe orders, trying to get that elusive perfect fit. "If the shoe isn't right, the dancer can't do her job," says shoe room supervisor and former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Linnette Roe. We talked to Roe and NYCB soloist Emilie Gerrity about some of the most interesting—and surprising—secrets of the shoe room.
The NYCB dancers go through 9,000 to 11,000 pairs of shoes each year, including flat shoes, sneakers, jazz shoes, and character shoes. The company has an annual shoe budget of about $780,000.
Let's say you find the perfect pointe shoes, but right before Nutcracker season they go out of stock; or worse, get discontinued. What do you do? Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop explains how to find another shoe that works for you.
Hupoy (right, as Alla Snizova) and Laszlo Major in "Le Corsaire." Photo by Zoren Jelenic, Courtesy Ballets de Trockadero de Monte Carlo.
One of the highlights of New York City's Fall for Dance Festival this year was an appearance by the Ballets Trockadéro de Monte Carlo, a company of men who dance on pointe with as much panache and style as any prima ballerina. Their performance of Paquita was funny, of course—they specialize in comic renditions of classical ballets— but also bracingly well executed. The star of the evening, Carlos Hopuy, aka Alla Snizova, was simply astonishing. His pointework sparkled, his hops on pointe were clean and strong, and he looked like he could have balanced in attitude forever. There was something deeply exciting about the way he combined delicacy and control with the explosive power and steel of a man's physique.
Hopuy, who was born in Havana, Cuba, and trained at the country's famed National Ballet School, has been with the company since 2012. Like all the Trocks, he has both a female and a male alter-ego: when he's not portraying Alla Snizova, he's Innokenti Smoktumuchsky, a dopey cavalier. He is also one of the dancers featured in the upcoming documentary Rebels on Pointe, which will have its theatrical release November 15 (click here for theaters and dates near you). I recently caught up with Hopuy, who, when he's not on tour, lives in Orlando with his husband Paolo Cervellera, a former Trock. We spoke by phone, in Spanish.
Did you always want to dance?
I always liked ballet. My mother, Norma Hopuy, was a principal with the Ballet de Camagüey. I used to hang around the rehearsals. She started giving me lessons at home. Then, when I was nine, I auditioned for the National Ballet School. I had the choice between that and gymnastics and I chose ballet.
When did you start going on pointe?
When I was 11. I would ask my classmates for their old pointe shoes and would try them on at home. When my mother realized that I liked to go on pointe, she started training me and bought me my own pair.
Pacific Northwest ballet principal Lindsi Dec tapes her toes to protect them from blisters. Photo by Lindsay Thomas.
Sally Turkel never had a problem with her feet. Tape on her big and little toes was all she needed before slipping on her pointe shoes. But when she joined Colorado Ballet as a young dancer, the new demands of company life took a toll, and blisters became a constant enemy. "I wasn't prepared for it," says Turkel, now a principal with Ballet San Antonio. "I became known as the one who always had terrible feet issues." It took a few years of experience and tips passed down from senior company members to learn how to avoid blisters.
"A blister is a sign from your body that it's time to take a step back," says Monara Dini, a podiatrist and assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco. "Ignoring it for too long can lead to infection, and a breakdown of the skin and wounds that ultimately take a long time to heal." Fortunately, the right foot care can help dancers speed healing, minimize pain and even avoid blisters in the first place.
Master pointe shoe fitter
Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop encourages dancers, if possible, to get a professional pointe shoe fitting. But just making an appointment isn't enough—you have to come prepared!
With dozens of different brands and hundreds of different models, choosing the right pointe shoe can be a daunting task. Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California based The Pointe Shop is here to guide you through figuring out what kind of box, shape, crown , length, width and shank will be best for you.
Why darn your pointe shoes? The Joffrey Ballet's Victoria Jaiani finds that darning gives her shoes a slightly bigger platform and harder tip, and helps them last longer through demanding ballets. We asked her to share her secrets with us.
Master pointe shoe fitter
Josephine Lee shares advice on five common yet dangerous mistakes that she sees dancers make while on pointe from curling their toes inside their shoes to the ever-controversial hyperextension.
Do you think that stronger feet need stronger shoes? Or that dancing on pointe is going to ruin your feet forever? Josephine Lee of the California based The Pointe Shop is back to explain (and debunk) five of the most common pointe shoe myths out there.
From left: Hayden Stark, Derek Dunn and Daniel Durrett
When we chose Houston Ballet soloist Derek Dunn as our October/November cover star last year, we knew he could do just about everything. But what we didn't know is that he—along with his fellow HB chums Hayden Stark and Daniel Durrett—can also kill it in pointe shoes! Apparently while the company was preparing for La Bayadère earlier this month, Dunn, Durrett and Stark got inspired to tackle the three Shades' variations from Act III. And they do not disappoint. From Stark's rock-solid relevés in arabesque to Dunn's near-silent footwork to Durrett's super-controlled ballonnés, these three pretty much nail their variations with both grace and aplomb. And, you know, with some double cabrioles and saut de basques thrown in.
This isn't the first time "sur les pointes" for Dunn (who announced on Instagram that he's leaving Houston Ballet for a yet-undisclosed company) or for Stark. Both were required to wear pointe shoes as the evil stepsisters in Stanton Welch's Cinderella in March. Still, knowing how many years it took me to perfect my pointework, I can't help but feel a little jealous of these guys.