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If the shoe fits: six professionals tell their pointe shoe secrets.

High arches, wide feet, bunions, or tapered toes--there's a pointe shoe that is perfect for you. Properly fitted, a dancer's foot can articulate, gesture, and emote as well as a hand. The "best" shoe is just a matter of opinion, because each toot is different and each brand offers something unique. And then there is the ritual of breaking in a shoe or preparing it for performance: hardening with shellac, softening with a hammer, cutting the shank, darning lips with yarn, or even using pliers to remove unwanted nails. DM talked to six pros about their choices.

Melissa Morrissey (WITH PRESTON DUGGER IN ST. LOUIS WOMAN) DANCE THEATRE OF HARLEM ON HER FREED OF LONDON SPECIAL ORDER:

I've had so much luck with my Freeds that I've been wearing the same pointe shoes for ten years dancing professionally. My shoemaker's symbol is a Maltese Cross, which I like because the toe is more square--it doesn't taper. [Editor's note: Freed of London pointe shoes are handmade. Shoemakers are identified with a symbol that is branded on the bottom of each shoe. It's helpful identification for the dancers because each maker's shoes are slightly different.] At DTH we spray our shoes to match our skin tone so the line of the leg is not broken by bright pink or peach shoes. Each dancer's color is unique, so they are done individually. Sometimes I also add a bit of powder to make mine match perfectly.

Ashley Turtle AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE PRINCIPAL ON HER CAPEZIO SPECIAL ORDER:

I started wearing Capezio pointe shoes as a little girl and never switched brands. I special order because fit is really important to me. I don't like the look or fed of baggy shoes. The size I get is 3 3/4. I order a D width in the box, C width in the heel, the sides cut down for better line, and the vamp lengthened to keep my feet from collapsing over. The shank is 3/4 length, which helps the bones in my feet because my arch can sit on it and I don't have to work so much. I get a Capezio Contempra box with a light application of soft glue around the bunion area and across the toe so demi-pointe is easier. I don't wear anything inside the shoe for padding because I like to feel my foot in the shoe.

Jason Hadley (AKA VASSISDAS PINSKY AND COLETTE ADAE), LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO ON HIS ALPHAS BY BLOCH:

The best things about my Alphas by Bloch are that they are consistent and comfortable, and I like the way they look on my feet, which are big (I wear size 9 1/2 men's street shoe) and wide. To break them in, I take out the nails and inner sock lining. They have a double shank of leather and red card, so I cut the leather way down into my metatarsal and the red card to a 3/4 shank. To harden them, I use an amazing pointe shoe hardener from Chacott and let it set for at least a week. With this particular glue, the shape of the box stays the same and I don't have to use let Glue, which is another brand of pointe shoe hardener, until about the fourth show. I bang my shoes against a cement floor to make them quieter.

Kelley Potter BOSTON BALLET CORPS MEMBER ON HER GAYNOR MINDENS:

I have high arches, and I started wearing Gaynor Minden pointe shoes because all other brands were breaking too easily on my feet. Gaynor's shank and box are made with plastic, so they're really durable. In the beginning, they just saved me a lot of money, but then I fell in love with them. People in the company who have tried my shoes on say it's hard to roll up, but if you've grown up in Gaynors it's not such a big deal. In fact, when I put on their shoes I'm like "Whoa, it's hard to dance."

Anna Kreager OAKLAND BALLET APPRENTICE ON HER PRIMA SOFTS:

Because my bunions are so bad, I had a really hard time finding pointe shoes that would work for me. No matter what I did, the box would slide off my little toe, and my foot would look sickled. I was constantly fiddling around in class, struggling to make them work. Then, I tried Prima Soft. Actually, I went to the Prima Soft showroom in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania to be fitted. Finally, everything aligned and I could just dance. Now" I've worn them for two years and I just love them.

Stephanie Rapp BALLET FLORIDA ON HER SANSHAS:

There was a little while when I wasn't working for a ballet company and I had to buy my own pointe shoes. The local dance supply store didn't have the brand I wore, so I tried Sanshas. At the time I didn't even know Sansha made pointe shoes. I kept wearing them even when I got into another company. Sanshas have a noise reducer built into the tip of the shoe, right in the bottom of the box, which makes it quieter when I run and jump. The platform of the box, where I stand on pointe, is incredibly flat. And the shank of the shoe is flat too, so when I stand in first position, I can actually feel all five toes on the ground. The shank is also really strong.

FITTING

When I got fitted, they said I should have a low heel; they have all different kinds available.--Kelley Potter

ELASTIC

I attach Sansha INVIS invisible elastic to my shoes so the heels don't slip off.--Stephanie Rapp

PADDING

I have tried different things inside my shoes, but I think Ouch Pouch by Bunheads is the most comfortable and reliable.--Jason Hadley

TRACTION

I scrape the sole of the shoe with a rasp or coarse file so it grips better on stage.--Ashley Tuttle

FOOT CARE

I wear a toe spacer between my big toe and second toe, inside my shoes, to take some of the pressure off my bunion.--Anna Kreager

DURABILITY

My shoes last because I rotate them. Throughout the day I will wear a few different pairs so they dry out.--Melissa Morrissey

Former ABT dancer Kate Lydon is DM's assistant editor.
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Author:Lydon, Kate
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
Words:1056
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