Have you ever wondered how many pointe shoes a professional dancer goes through in a day/week or month? This article may give you some insight into the lives of dancers and their beloved pointe shoes.
The life of a pointe shoe depends wholly on the extent of pointe work you do. Professional dancers in ballet companies receive pointe shoes each week as a supplement to their weekly wage. Typically, corps de ballet and coryphee members may receive 2 pair per week, soloistes and senior artistes may receive 3 pair per week and principal artistes may receive 6 pair per week. Depending upon the repertoire, the demand of the repertoire, and how involved the dancer is in the repertoire, they may not go through their weekly quota of shoes, but other times they may need more, which is why the dancers save their unused shoes for times when their workload is elevated. It is becoming normal practice for ballet companies to have separate donation funds or appeals to specifically support the purchasing of pointe shoes for their entire company. Large American ballet companies can spend up to $500,000 per year on supplying pointe shoes for all their female dancers, English companies up to 250,000 pound per year and The Australian Ballet $250,000 per year.
Beginners will normally get several months out of their first pair of pointe shoes, in fact they may outgrow them before wearing them out completely. Part of the reason for this, is that the pointe work a beginner is required to do is gentle, slow barre work, which doesn’t place a lot of stress on the pointe shoe. More than likely beginners will be required to do only an hour of pointe work per week.
For a student with moderate usage, a pair of pointe shoes will typically last anywhere from ten to twenty hours of wear. For dance students, this may mean weeks or months of use from a pair of pointe shoes.
Full time dance students may get a month of wear out of their pointe shoes, once again dependent on their pointe workload. My Semi Professional Program at Academy Ballet involves approximately 8 hours of pointe work per week, which means the dancers need a new pair of shoes every second week.
In the course of normal use, there are three main types of wear on a pointe shoe. The most important of these is the state of the shank. As the body of the shoe is repetitively flexed, the shank gradually weakens and loses its ability to provide support. A pointe shoe is no longer wearable when the shank breaks down to the point where it no longer provides the necessary support. The second type of wear is the softening of the box and especially the platform on which the dancer balances. The last type of wear to a pointe shoe involves the satin, usually the satin on the platform will start to tear from the constant contact with the floor, which will be exacerbated if dancing on wooden floor boards. However, this type of wear is not usually an issue when dancing on tarkett.
So, as you have learned, pointe shoes are very expensive items and their stage life can be quite limited. If pointe shoes could speak, they would have interesting stories to tell. Pointe shoe makers need to be congratulated and revered for the effort and care that goes into the custom making of their product.
Written by; Vicki Attard