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Ballet - Pointe Shoe Brands
The choice of pointe shoe is a very personal one. Every foot is unique, and different models suit different feet. Just because your teacher favours a particular shoe, doesn't mean that company will have an option to suit your foot - another brand may have a shoe that will suit you much better. Each dancer has to find the make and model that works for her, by trial and error.
Here is a summary of the major brands available.
I'm proud of the fact that Bloch is an Australian company, but its pointe shoes and balletwear have spread all over the world. Jacob Bloch arrived from Europe in 1931 during the Great Depression, and began making shoes. International touring companies visited Australia, tried his shoes and loved them - and the rest, as they say, is history!
Capezio pointe shoes have been around a long time. The company's founder, Salvatore Capezio, opened his first store in New York in 1887.
Pavlova bought shoes for herself and her entire company during one tour, giving his reputation a boost and ensuring the success of the brand.
Capezio is now the largest manufacturer of pointe shoes in the world!
When I worked at the Royal Academy of Dancing, I recall the occasional delivery of a crate of shoes - they were shoes custom-made by Freed of London for Royal Ballet stars, but deemed not quite good enough by those dancers.
There was always a scramble to find Margot Fonteyn's rejects - not because anyone wanted to dance in them, but because they must have touched Margot's feet!
Freed was founded in 1929 by a cobbler who had worked for Gamba. The company was bought by a large Japanese dancewear company, Onward Takiyama, in 1990 but thankfully, it continues to trade as Freed.
Gamba & Repetto
When I was dancing ballet, Freed and Gamba were virtually the only shoes anyone wore.
Gamba also supplied the Royal Ballet, but they were mainly known for their wonderful character shoes. I got married in a pair of their butter-soft blue lace-up ankle boots - they went beautifully with my blue velvet Victorian gown (well, it was the seventies...).
Sadly, Gamba's long tradition in London - they were established in 1903 - is now over. A few years ago, Gamba was bought by the French dancewear company Repetto, and the shoes are now made in France.
Gaynor Minden pointe shoes are a controversial shoe.
Much of their construction is synthetic materials - a major change in ballet, which sets so much store by tradition!
Overall, Mindens are not a wise choice for the beginner ballet dancer, but offer many advantages to the professional ballerina. They're attractive to dance companies because they last much longer than any other shoe - and pointe shoes are a huge drain on their budget.
Gillian Murphy wears Gaynor Mindens.
Gillian Murphy in Gaynors
Grishko is a Russian company and a relatively new player in the pointe shoe market, but their shoes are amazingly popular. Grishko converts are positively evangelical!
The company was started by the scientist husband of a ballet dancer.
Svetlana Zakharova of the Bolshoi is a Grishko pointe shoe fan - as are many other members of Russian ballet companies.
Svetlana Zakharova in Grishko
Footnote - Anello & Davide
Many years ago, I remember stumbling across the tiny Anello & Davide shop in Covent Garden. I'd read that Pavlova wore them - so, entranced by the idea of dancing in her shoes, I rushed in and bought a pair.
What I was thinking, I have no idea - I was never able to dance in them! They were extremely tapered to a tiny platform, only about two toes wide. You can see the effect in Pavlova's photo - they make the feet look beautiful. They must have been uncomfortable, though!
Strangely, the company no longer makes pointe shoes and the current owners deny they ever made them. Makes me wonder if I slipped into an alternative universe!