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