Shaping my Slippers

Psst. I have a shocking confession: in recent weeks I have been hanging out at the barre much more regularly. Normally, I am a more Modern kind of girl but dancing with David Parker and The Bang Group in Nut/cracked again drove me to it.

Most of the dancers with whom I work warm up on the floor a la Martha Graham, Erick Hawkins or Lester Horton, but the Bang Group prefers to undergo a battery of Ballet exercises to kick off rehearsals. Inspired by this gang’s rhythmic grace and envious of their leaner-than-a-greyhound’s thighs, I’ve decided to give Ballet another try.

At first, I was bumbling about the barre barefoot, but then, I stumbled across a pair of white Capezio slippers in a box in my basement. When I began searching for our Christmas stockings, I was startled to discover many bizarre treasures I had squirreled away there. I mean, I don’t even know when or why I bought these obviously unused shoes. Somewhere in the back of my muddled mind, I have an incomplete memory of the bargain bin at Capezio that might explain their presence. Why else would I have chosen white over the more prototypical pale pink shade?

Forcing my feet into this pair felt funny but oddly familiar. It’s been decades since I studied ballet seriously. Of course, my discomfort was also due to my aversion to dancing in footed tights. Lumpy socks don’t sit so well in calfskin slippers. Thinner hosiery, however, would have allowed the split sole in these shoes to accentuate my underachieving arches more.

If you have never worn them, you may not realize that ballet slippers are unlike almost every other type of athletic shoes. There is nothing in them to support or cushion you. In fact, they are designed to be stretched into the shape of the dancer’s sole.

When they are made, they don’t differentiate between the left foot and the right. Their supple leather is intended to mold to your metatarsals and conform to the unique contours of your foot. If you aren’t born with superhuman strength in a very specific set of foot muscles, then you must spend endless hours doing barre exercises before your slippers can set off your poetic point. I’m still searching for mine.


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September 2008
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