A long-anticipated day. You and your classmates arrive at the Grand Jeté dance store, where you will finally get your feet into your first pair of pointe shoes. You feel a little in the dark about what this will feel like. Will it hurt? How do I know if it’s the right fit? Can I choose or will my teacher choose for me? Do I get to wear padding? Will I lose a toenail or have blisters all over my feet?
There are so many unknowns when students come to Grand Jeté for their first pair of pointe shoes, but most dancers are buzzing with excitement because they are on the precipice of the next chapter of their dance journey. Going “en pointe” opens doors to new roles in productions, advances your technique, and is a mile marker in your dance journey. As an employee of the Grand Jeté since 2014, I have had the pleasure of being a part of this experience for hundreds of students. But when I get to fit students who I dance with or who I have taught it is a very special experience not just for them but for me.
When the Ballet Co.Laboratory group arrived they were very quiet (unusual for this group) and I could sense that they were listening very closely. I went over with them what a well-fitting shoe should feel like, the sensations to look for, and also signs that a shoe may not be the right fit. Slowly, smiles started to spread across the room. Oh yes, they were very excited.
As we found the right shoe for each student, we could feel their confidence rising and their anxiety melting away. I realized just how proud of them I felt. They all communicated very clearly and were diligent as they compared and contrasted their different options, made conscious choices about their padding, asked for advice and listened to the teachers and GJ staff as we offered opinions and explained the different specifications of the shoes they were trying on. I appreciated the patience and effort they put in to finding their first shoe. If I’ve learned one thing in dance, it’s that patience and effort are key to reaching your goals.
I wrapped up the experience with them by explaining the importance of caring for their shoes and tips to help them last as long as possible. The feeling in the air was different by this point. There was a sense of accomplishment and a realization that they were ready for this next part of their journey. They were itching to get to their next class to get their shoes sewn with Ms. Debbie and the 3Bs.
It struck me that it felt different to fit this group of students. Not just because I’ve known many of them from past productions or because I’ve fit their siblings, but because they are an integral part of the Ballet Co.Laboratory community. The mission of Ballet Co.Laboratory is “to create, develop and inspire artists and communities through collaboration with the art of ballet.” And here they were, collaborating with me, inspired and inspiring, and aspiring to be the best dancer they can be.
They’ve worked hard for this moment, and they know that the pointe shoe is a symbol of the hard work yet to come – and that they are ready to take on the challenge. Community is built on days like these, and I was so honored to be a part of it. Congratulations to our level 3A dancers on this amazing accomplishment!