Posted on October 2, 2019
If there’s just one thing that demonstrates the changes that have taken place in ballet over the past two decades, it has to be the pointe shoe – the dancers of 2019 expect a lot more from their shoes. “What I did 20 years ago is not what these dancers are doing now,” says Linette Roe, shoe manager for New York City Ballet. “They are expected to go harder, longer days. They go from sneakers, to pointe shoes, to character shoes, to barefoot and back to pointe shoes all in a day.”
Roe is keenly aware of today’s requirements, adding that the biggest complaint she hears is when dancers try on stock shoes, they get baggy around the heel when they go on pointe. The foot compresses slightly when on pointe, and the more arched a foot is, the more “bagginess” there can be. As a consequence, the team at BLOCH have developed a line of Stretch Pointe shoes to address the most regular complaints they hear about the fit and performance of a pointe shoe.
Roe is impressed with what BLOCH has come up with. “It’s a scientific take on the pointe shoe,” she explains. “The stretch shoe allows the dancer to wear a stock shoe, put it on and go, and there is no bagginess.” Dancers also noticed the difference, with the result that BLOCH’s Stretch Pointe shoes are now being worn by top dancers, including American Ballet Theatre principal Isabella Boylston, who appears in BLOCH’s latest campaign.
In addition, for dancers who wear toe pads, the fit of the Stretch Pointe makes it so they don’t have to compromise the fit in the heel to accommodate the pad with a slightly larger shoe.
Here are a few examples of what’s new with the shoes:
Mary Carpenter, a teacher and shoe fitter, thinks the Stretch Pointe fabric changes the way a dancer can fit a shoe: “They are fitting the shoe for how it looks en pointe and then the satin stretches when you come down to flat when the foot gets longer.”
The Stretch Pointe fabric gives the foot the cleanest possible line. “I love how streamlined the Stretch Pointe is,” Boylston enthuses. “It really moulds to the silhouette of my foot and is super light.” Stretch Pointe also has the unique ability to highlight the shape of the dancer’s foot, while giving them unparalleled strength and support.
Three of the Stretch Pointe shoes feature a ground-breaking relevéase shank, with laser precision scores that allow the shank to flex so a dancer can access their strength seamlessly to roll through demi-pointe onto pointe. Carpenter is enthusiastic: “It’s ingenious what they did. Mechanically it makes great sense.”
Once a dancer is on pointe, the shank locks into place, offering full stability and support. It’s also disconnected from the shoe at the heel in order to allow the insole and outsole to move independently from one another – giving the dancer even more mobility.
One of the biggest problems with pointe shoes can be when the heel slips off. It’s annoying for the dancers and, as a result, “They use rosin on their heels and start getting heel blisters,” Roe reveals. To remedy the problem, Stretch Pointe shoes come with a suede inner heel so that the material grips the heel better than a slippery muslin or jersey fabric. With extra padding, the heel also absorbs shock, helping eliminate an impact.
The Stretch fabric also helps prevent the heel slipping because it allows the shoe to mould to the natural shape of a dancer’s foot. “These shoes would be really good for a dancer with a narrow heel,” Carpenter thinks, adding, “they might be an E in the front and a C in the heel, and there is just nothing you can do about that.”
Most Stretch Pointe shoes have been designed with a split outsole that allows the fabric to stretch correctly, and really hug the shoe to the arch of the foot. “It doesn’t affect the integrity of the shank,” Carpenter says. “It gives a nice bend. It’s not a break, but a cupping sensation under your arch.”
Some may baulk at the idea of a split outsole, so for those dancers or teachers who feel strongly about a full outsole, BLOCH have developed Synthesis, a shoe with Stretch Pointe technology and a full outsole.
BLOCH’s Stretch Pointe technology is available in six different styles: Elegance, Eurostretch, Synthesis, Superlative, Dramatica II and Axi Stretch. Want a chance to win a free pair? Dancers who get fitted for Stretch Pointe at their local pointe shoe retailer or the BLOCH flagship store and purchase a pair of shoes can post about them using the hashtag #StretchPointeWin to be entered to win another pair!