I may have mentioned this already, but a few years ago I found a box at my mum’s house which had every pointe shoe I’d ever worn in it. Being a collector extraordinaire I took them back with me (that must have been an interesting ride through the x-ray scanner) and put them in a box, but always with the idea that I’d do something with them someday.
They recently got a new box (44 litres), so I estimate that this is about 30 litres of pointe shoe.
It may sound like a lot, but for 16 years of pointe work, it’s really not very much at all. (It occurs to me that there should be a bright green pair somewhere, I’ll have to have a look for them). The eagle-eyed among you may be able to work out what brands I’ve worn over the years.
Part of the reason I like the collection is that it charts the exploration of my body and the acceptance of my physical limitations especially in relation to ballet.
I spent the first 10 years of my pointe career buying shoes that were the wrong shape for my foot and caused excruciating pain. The 45 minutes a week I spent in pointe shoes were essentially a battle of mind over body, I was lifting myself into the air by sheer force of will. It was exhausting, but I was damned if I was going to let reality get in the way of my wishes (you can stop smirking now, Mum).
…and then one summer I had a job at Art College digitizing negatives, which left me lots of time on the Internet. I found out a lot of interesting things, and realised that I had been mis-interpreting my feet. So I got new shoes and changed the way I looked at pointe, not as a struggle but an extension of myself, and slowly, it got better.
Now I’m not saying that it’s easy, but I’m in control and it definitely doesn’t hurt any more and I can see myself filling another 44 litre box with pointe shoes.
But here’s the slightly ironic part… on the left are my first pair of pointe shoes. On the right are my most recent pair. As usual in life, the answer was there all along, once you know what question you’re asking.