Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
“In the making and the wearing, a toe shoe, ironically, is not a kind or gentle object.” This is one way that Toni Bentley (1984) describes her experience visiting the Freed factory in London, 25 years ago. She notes that the hands of the makers she met were as strong and as scarred as the feet of the dancers who wear the pointe shoes he makes.
The maker and dancer form a symbiotic relationship mediated by the pointe shoes that the maker constructs and the dancer destroys. While this relationship can become very personal at times, these two people rarely know each other personally, and makers often have no knowledge of the ballet world other than their profession. Students and less-well-known professionals do not have a choice in specific makers, but must buy stock shoes, made by whoever happened to be making that particular shoe on that particular day. Professional dancers, on the other hand, rely heavily on the one maker whom they believe makes the shoes that best fit their specifications, even though they often only know the maker by his symbol, not by a real name. The reliance that a dancer has on one maker can become problematic, of course, if that maker decides to stop producing pointe shoes. They must find a new maker and adjust to their idiosyncrasies, working again to form the faceless relationship between maker and dancer (Bentley, 1984; Hanlon, 2005).