I was looking at tips for creative writing recently and came across this as a method of explaining things, describing events etc. Well, I was a dancer until I was 18. Hitting that triple threat – Ballet, Tap and Modern. I went through it all. I had bobby pins stabbed into my head, I had the horror of forgetting a dance half-way through (this happened all the time, normally during solos), I squeezed into leotards and tutus and wore tap shoes when screws had fallen out them. I had an amazing time. I hope one day to qualify and teach. But this looks to be a more long term investment, that I really need to start getting more serious about.
Anyway, here is an account of my first pair of pointe shoes, it’s a combo of a touch of fiction and mostly fact.
Gran spilt a latte. Which is so un-Gran-like because she is usually the most well together, organised and tidy person in the world. Of course she had copious numbers of napkins to clean up said latte and thus her Gran-like persona was restored almost instantaneously, but nonetheless, she spilt a latte. It was her first latte, and her last, as the experience had scarred to that extent.
We were in Bristol, me, my mum, Hannah and Gran to get my first pair of pointe shoes. I was beyond nervous. Having been going to ballet for about 10 years, and gone through the ankle strengthening in preparation, I was definitely ready but still terrified. We’d driven two hours from home to get these pointe shoes, and I’d been prepared for what to expect, two of the girls already had theirs. I was to try on hundreds and hundreds of pink, off-pink and near pink shoes with a flat edge on the bottom, have to stand in first position, go up on my toes and asked how I felt. I’d also be issued with a pair of ‘ouch pouches’, potentially some lamb’s wool and maybe some toe separators.
So – after the latte incident, we went to the shop. It was a small shop with a red door on the corner and a large white rimmed window. We went in and perused all of the shoes, ribbon, leotards and full range of Dance materials ballet girls and their relatives just go crazy about. Although not really because most of the stuff is so damn expensive. Anyway, we meet with a lady with curly-ish brown hair. She is friendly and nice enough but there is something intimidating about her. This is a fundamental trait of all ballet teachers and people in the dance world. They are nice and friendly and they smile at you but there is something underlying that is utterly terrifying about them. It was a trait I have been trying to develop every day since this one but have yet to conquer, because it’s great.
She puts the first pair on my feet, they feel horrendous and I look like a penguin in them. My toes are scrunched and the shoe is so tight. “are they pinching?” she asks me. “Yes a little” I say, “well, that’s to be expected”. I stand in first, do a little plie and rise up onto the tips on my toes, my mother to this point thought I would be standing on literal blocks of wood and had been treating me like some sort of hero, this attitude was quickly altered when she saw the hardened canvas/cardboard combo and not wood on the ends of me feet. So the first pair was a no for reasons only the lady knew. Settling in for the long haul I tried on the second pair, tilting them 45 degrees so that my big toe could get right to the end of them. That was it. They were my pointe shoes; a pair of pink Bloch pointe shoes. And I loved them. The lady suggested we darn them so they lasted longer but my teacher had said not to bother as the studio floors weren’t the traditional wood of so many studios so they wouldn’t be scratched or full of splinters.
I kept those shoes for years. Even after I finished dancing somewhere in my mum’s attic lie those shoes, ribbons torn to shreds, bottoms scratched and scuffed, a lighter shade of pink having been covered in camomile lotion to try and restore them to their former glory during a last minute panic about some exam. I do miss my ballet days, and will never forget the shoes, the tights, the resin, the leotards, the satin; the ribbon, the hairspray, the glitter, the blood, the pain and I never would be able to considering I have a left hip that sometimes seizes up as a result of all of my years of hard work. One day, I’ll return to teach – I’m sure of it; however until then I am happy to remember my first pointe shoes.