The Perfect Fit: Julia Erickson's Pointe Shoe Process
A dazzling pointe shoe takes the place of the traditional glass slipper when PBT’s Prince searches fair and wide for his perfect match. Even outside the fairytale, finding the perfect pointe shoe fit is a Cinderella story unto itself in the reality of a professional ballerina.
When a ballerina first unwraps a pair of brand-new pointe shoes, they won’t remain that way for long. To the untrained eye, it seems absurd to sew, step on and scratch a flawless new pair of pink satin pointe shoes. But, achieving that perfect fit is an incredibly individualized process that often entails sewing, super glue, specifications and even arm strength.
Here, PBT Principal Julia Erickson shares her tricks for perfecting her pointe shoes.
Julia Erickson, PBT Principal Dancer
Current Pointe Shoe Style: Gaynor Minden, Size 10.24m
First Pair of Pointe Shoes: Bloch Supremas
-Reinforcing material sewn into arch of shoe
-Sides cut down (to show the shape of the foot)
Pointe Shoe Rotation: 6-8 pairs of prepared shoes with few retirees due to the durability of the shoe
Tools of the Trade: blue handy wipes, elasticized ribbons, toe spacers
Since PBT Principal Julia Erickson switched to Gaynor Minden, she’s dropped significant time from her pointe shoe prep. And, amid an average eight-hour rehearsal day, every minute is precious.
The ballet equivalent of high-tech equipment, Gaynor Minden uses high-tech polymers to construct the shank (sole of the shoe) and box (hard toe of the shoe) as opposed to the layers of papers, fabrics and glue traditionally used to handcraft pointe shoes.
“I think that these are the evolution (of pointe shoes). Gaynors distribute the support, because of the material….Honestly, I think these extend the life of my career,” said Erickson, adding that the shoes provide additional support and comfort for chronic arthritis in her second metatarsal.
With her previous style of shoes, Erickson used to cut the inside shank (or sole) at the arch of her foot, but her new style doesn’t require that sort of tailoring. Sewing on new ribbons and loosening them up with some light bending sums up of the extent of hercurrent pointe shoe prep.
“You don’t cut it; it’s designed to bend, she said. “These are very consistently made.”
As a Gaynor Minden artist, Erickson now helps advocate the brand, a fairly new trend in pointe shoe styles, for other professional dancers.
“I like dancing in them, and they’re so much easier,” Erickson said. “(As professional ballerinas) we are very sensitive to our shoe needs, and we are very particular, kind of Princess and the Pea style….The best shoes are the pair that you’re not thinking about…they’re a vehicle for you to be the best dancer you can be.”