Gaynor Mindens - the lazy dancer's pointe shoe?
There is a lot of prejudice against Gaynor Minden pointe shoes. Is it fair, or is it just that ballet teachers are traditionalists and don't like change?
The main criticism of Gaynor Mindens is that they "do the work for you". Not many ballet dancers would complain about that! Seriously, though - the concern was that because the shoe did the hard work for you, your feet would become weak.
Do Gaynor Mindens Make Your Feet Weak?
I believe the idea that GM's make your feet weak is due to a basic misunderstanding.
When GM's first came out, dancers (and fitters) would choose the same stiffness of shank they were used to in their old pointe shoes. However, because of how Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are made, the added springiness of the plastic meant the shank was stronger than the foot - it would "pop" the dancer straight up on pointe instead of allowing her to roll up through demi-pointe.
The dancer, especially if she was inexperienced, wasn't likely to complain because she was suddenly flying up on to and over the box with ease!
That's what led to the "weak feet" problem. These days, most fitters should be aware of the need to choose a shank that's not too hard for the dancer's feet.
It is difficult to check at a fitting without ribbons or elastic, but the right shank for you is one that allows you to roll up through demi-pointe. If you find yourself "popping up", it's too stiff.
In fact, if you're one of those dancers who keeps having to "trade up" to a harder shank because you keep breaking them, GM's may actually make your feet stronger - because you'll be able to use a much softer shank without breaking it.
What's Good about Gaynor Mindens?
There are plenty of good things about GM's.
Comfort, for one thing: for most people, they feel broken-in almost from day one. The box has a cushiony feel, yet you can still feel the floor.
The ease of getting over the box is another feature that fans often mention.
If you're performing, you'll also appreciate the fact that GM's are quieter than the average shoe.
But there biggest "plus" is that they last two or three times longer than a conventional pointe shoe! It's one of the biggest frustrations of a dancer's life that just when she's got her pointe shoes broken in, they die - but not Gaynors.
In fact, one of the difficult things about Gaynor Mindens is working out when they've died, as the shoe holds together for quite some time after its use-by date, which can be dangerous (see "Negatives" below).
How Weak is Weak Anyway?
In the days of Taglioni, dancers had to develop abnormal strength to get on pointe in shoes that gave virtually no support. As the design of pointe shoes improved, the level of strength required for pointe work reduced. Couldn't it be said Gaynor Mindens are just the next step in that process?
Does it matter if feet aren't strong enough to stand in old-fashioned pointe shoes, provided they're strong enough to meet all other technical demands?
What's Not So Good . . .
The one thing that few people dispute is that Gaynor Mindens don't look as pretty as other pointe shoes. Even GM fans admit it!
The long life of GM's can be another negative, because (as I said) it can be hard to tell when they've reached the end of their life. If you go on dancing on them too long, the shank can snap suddenly, or the shoe can simply disintegrate - not a nice thing to happen if you're in mid-flight across the floor!
The early GM's were hard to turn on because the box was too fat - this has been remedied though. That is one of the good things about Gaynor Mindens: they're a modern, dynamic design that is constantly being tweaked and improved.
Finally, sewing ribbons and elastic on Gaynor Mindens is a right royal pain because of the plastic construction.
Any other negatives really come down to personal preference and the shape of your foot!
On balance, I'd recommend you stick with a traditional pointe shoe when you first start pointe work, just so you know what it's all about - unless you find you're constantly breaking shanks, in which case you may be a good candidate for Mindens.
Later on, when you understand your feet and what they need, you'll be in a better position to decide whether Gaynor Mindens will work for you.