What it feels like to ... GO THROUGH 60 PAIRS OF SHOES A YEAR

The Herald Magazine - - FIRST UP - CON­STANCE DEVERNAY, PRIN­CI­PAL DANCER, SCOT­TISH BAL­LET

ICAN re­mem­ber the first time I went to Paris with my par­ents, to visit the bal­let store. It was a spe­cial treat for me. I grew up in Amiens, in France, and I had been danc­ing since I was lit­tle. I must have been around 10 years old that day, and I can still re­call the smell of wood and shel­lac, the feel of the satin be­neath my fin­gers.

I was a few years older when I got my first pair of pointe shoes – dancers must be ready for them, and that takes years of con­di­tion­ing and strength­en­ing the legs and feet, so you don’t get them when you are very young.

It was painful! I re­mem­ber it was not a nice feel­ing, to be­gin with, un­til the skin on your toes starts to har­den. Pointe shoes cre­ate a beau­ti­ful op­ti­cal il­lu­sion, but it is hard work at first. My shoes are very pre­cious to me – all bal­let dancers feel the same. Pre­par­ing them to wear in a per­for­mance takes a long time.

First of all, a fit­ter mea­sures us for the per­fect shoe, which are then hand­made from lay­ers of fab­ric pasted to­gether, cre­at­ing the “box” at the tip of the shoe, and satin, leather and cotton. The dancer’s own maker’s stamp is im­printed on the sole. Mine is a club, like the one you find in a pack of cards. I have never met the per­son who makes my shoes for me, but one day I would like to. We do the prepa­ra­tion our­selves, ham­mer­ing the plat­form to make it softer; glue­ing, adding shel­lac, which is the same sub­stance used in nail var­nish, to pro­vide longevity; cut­ting and adding rib­bons… there are many ad­just­ments to make be­fore they are ready.

The shoes are part of our equip­ment, like a rac­quet is for a ten­nis player. They feel like part of our cos­tume, they make us glide along the stage, cre­at­ing the il­lu­sion of magic for the au­di­ence.

I go through around 60 pairs of shoes a year. Danc­ing Cin­derella means I will go through two pairs per show. Christo­pher Hamp­son’s Cin­derella is a de­mand­ing but mag­i­cal role, and along with Odette/Odile from Swan Lake, my favourite to dance. I joined Scot­tish Bal­let 10 years ago, and it has been a won­der­ful 10 years. Af­ter train­ing at Cannes Bal­let School, I moved to

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