The previous week had been a rough week in pointe-shoe land. Virginia Ballet Theatre is getting ready for its February Sweetheart Concert, and our first week back from winter break began with a bang as guest choreographer David Keener set his piece, Twilight, on the company in ten whirlwind hours. My feet had gotten soft over the two-week holiday. There was no easing into things.
On Monday my father looks at my bruised toenail and quotes Coach Jimmy Dugan from A League of Their Own: “If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it.”
On Tuesday, as I wrap zebra-striped duct tape around my raw toes, I feel like my pointe shoes are abusing me. I ponder the twenty years of my life that I’ve spent strapping myself into these pink satin instruments of torture. Surely there are other careers where it physically hurts to go to work, but they must be mostly filled with crazy people. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get my first pair of pointe shoes. I slept with them under my pillow that night. When I started dancing for Todd Rosenlieb Dance in 2007, I embraced the bare feet of modern dance and threw bags of old pointe shoes away. But when TRD merged with Virginia Ballet Theatre a few years ago, pointe shoes were back in my life. Our company dances some all-modern concerts, some all-ballet concerts, and a few mixed-bill concerts that combine ballet and modern dance repertory. This is the all-ballet time of year.
On Wednesday my husband watches, bemused, as I soak my feet in Epsom salts—with some bellowing as the salt hits the open wounds. He says my feet seem like strange creatures to him, two small animals separate from the rest of me that live in our house and go through various stages of agony and ecstasy.
On Thursday I muse wonderingly to my friend Celia about why I do this to myself.
“Because it’s beautiful,” she says.
It’s true. By Friday, my feet have toughened up and dive into their shoes with a will. And sometimes, when you’re rotating around on a smooth two-inch oval of pink satin, you feel like you can fly.
Come see us dance! Virginia Ballet Theatre will present its third annual Sweetheart Concert Series on February 13th and 14th at 7:30 p.m. at the Roper Performing Arts Center. For tickets and information, visit TRDance.org.