my ballerina daughter and i are both blessed with “pretty feet” by ballet standards (a.k.a. high arches*) which, while they look nice, have a tendency to break the shank of a pointe shoe fairly quickly. in my youth, back in the olden days, i would “quarter shank” my shoes, a process of shortening the shank to give better support under the heel, and to lessen the chance of the shank snapping in the center.
now, let me tell you, this was not a particularly easy task. first i would pull away the cloth lining inside the shoe to reveal the shank and then partially separate the shank from the shoe. sometimes they would separate easy enough, but other times it was a fight, and frequently pliers or other weapons would be employed. once separated, i would cut off the top quarter of the shank with scissors (also a challenge as the shanks did not wish to be severed) or a knife or a samurai sword or whatever. often there was a nail left in the heel of the shoe which could usually be wrestled out with pliers but occasionally refused to budge. in this case, i would just cover the nail with bits of tape to keep it from stabbing my foot. finally, i would adhere the inner lining back in place with tape or band-aids. (band-aids worked nicely, plus the little gauzy part in the center helped to cushion those stubborn nails that refused to be removed).
~click to enlarge~
now, my ballerina daughter has been on pointe for close to two years and the last time we went pointe shoe shopping the extremely very experienced professional pointe shoe fitting lady recommended a pair of quarter shanked grishkos. quarter shanked. like, they come that way. as in, the shoe company now actually makes them with shorter shanks to save you the trouble of dissecting the shoes and decapitating the shanks by yourself! now, where’s the fun in that?!? just put them on and you’re ready to go? just like that? hmpf. i’m not quite sure how i feel about that. my poor deprived child will never have the deranged pleasure of torturing her pointe shoes before they torture her back. yeah, okay, fine- maybe i’m a little jealous because she gets the easy way out. i mean, how exactly is this fair? plus now they make these high tech gel toe pad things- she hardly even gets blisters. sheesh, it’s like any wimpy kid can go on pointe these days!
okay, just kidding. pointe work is still extremely challenging and i’m all for technical advances to make a ballet student’s life a little easier : ) and when i watch my ballerina daughter struggle with some of the same things i used to struggle with (hops on pointe!) i almost wish i could make it all easier.
so, today my ballerina came out of class complaining that her shoes are dead. she’s right, they are. so while she may never have to hack up the shanks of her pre-quarter-shanked grishkos, she is about to learn the fine art of painting her shoes with future floor wax and leaving them on the radiator in hopes that they’ll harden up enough to get her through rehearsals this weekend. i suppose that’s worth something.
*(i read once that high arched feet are a sign of aristocracy. it would seem something has gone amiss. because, if this is the case……..where are my castle and my humble servants?)