by Lauren Bayes '18
For most of the day, I stay locked up in a pink bag with a bunch of little holes. Her mother says the holes are there to "let me breathe." That's nice because I do get very hot very quickly. I sit in the bag along with my best friends the toe pads and the toe spacers. We're all super close. Literally, when I'm worn we are all squished inside of me very closely. Life as a pair of pointe shoes is more complex than it may seem.
When I get taken out of the bag, she slides me onto her ugly feet and ties the ribbons around her thin, but muscular, ankles. I hear her talking with her friends. When the dance teacher tells them to put on their pointe shoes, it also means they have a quick break to sit down and talk. I get to hear a lot of the dance gossip. Then, when the teacher tells them to get to the barre, my girl will quickly run over to her usual spot on the barre closest to the mirror, so she can watch herself and perfect her technique.
While we are dancing at the barre, it's not too bad. When she stands flat-footed, I don't feel much at all. Although, when she rises up onto her toes, I feel a lot of hard pressure. I know pointe shoes are made to help dancers get all the way up on their toes, so I must do just that. It's worth it though because even though I am just a pair of pointe shoes and I won't last forever, there's a unique connection between a dancer and her pair of pointe shoes. A connection that isn't seen between two people. It's just felt between a dancer and the shoes.
When I'm worn I feel a love/hate relationship. She loves me, but she also hates me. I can make her feet look beautiful, but I make them feel awful. I give her feet blisters and I make them sore. I wouldn't normally be this cruel, but it's payback for all the pain she causes me! I am beaten and bent, needles pierce through me when the ribbons are sewn on, and she puts sticky glue inside of me, but I am ok with that because it makes my life last longer.
The hardest part about a pair of pointe shoe's life is that while it's exciting to be worn, danced in, and especially performed in, the more we are worn the quicker we die. Yes, pointe shoes die, and typically we die quickly. Well, we don't literally die, but once we become too soft to support our girl, we are never worn again. Sometimes we are hung up as room decor, and other times we are thrown in a bag and banished to the basement. Worst of all, sometimes even thrown away. My girl is considerate, but she's had many pairs of pointe shoes before me, however I think she'll keep me at least in a bag in the basement. That's much better than the garbage. I wish I could stay strong forever, but that's not possible for pointe shoes.
We start off our life strong, hard, and tough. And then as time goes on, we become soft and we aren't sturdy enough to support our girl while she rises all the way on her toes. If we become too soft, we can't help her stay lifted, and if she rolls over us, she rolls her ankle and that is never a good thing.
I have a theory on why pointe shoes go soft. We start out hard because we know this world is hard and we have to make a stand for ourselves. However, once we are bought and shaped to our girl, we know we now have a family. Even though it's a love/hate relationship, it's mostly love. The more we get to love our girl, the more love we feel and this is why we go soft. You'd think that because we feel the love we would be able to support our girl even better, but unfortunately that's not how it works.
I guess it's better to be loved and short lived than barely worn. Because even though you may live life longer being barely worn and less loved, your life will be cold, dark, and lonely. It's the contrast between living longer but not being loved, or being loved but having a shorter lifespan. It's definitely a weird contrast and quite an unfortunate one, but life works in mysterious ways.
I get jealous of her street shoes because they can last for many seasons. It's rare for a pair of pointe shoes to last for even half of a dance season. Some pairs don't even get the chance to be performed in. Luckily because it's competition season, I've been performed in twice so far! However, I can feel myself loving her more and more every time she wears me, so it's bittersweet.
With this being said, I know I must appreciate everyday. Everyday in the studio, everyday onstage, and even everyday stuffed inside of the pink bag with a bunch of little holes. Some days I actually spend the whole day inside of the bag, but it does feel nice to relax after a week of hard work, for me and her. Life as a pair of pointe shoes can be fun, but it's short, so we must live life everyday to the fullest extent. And even though there are consequences for love, it's worth it.
Thursday, October 27--
Our Town is a serious play-- the second-most-performed in high schools across the country, even across time. My great-uncle was George Gibbs in his Maryland production, my great-grandmother was Mrs. Gibbs in her New York production. My grandmother was Rebecca Gibbs. It's truly a classic play.
Right at this moment, the orchestra is playing quiet music onstage, as the choir scene starts.
”The music’s only good when it's loud,” the choir director (Carlos) says.
And the stage is nearly bare-- it is a bare-stage play, with a simple white-picket fence, wooden frames where the doorways would be, and choir chairs where the wooden chairs will eventually be. There are microphone headpieces, to make the dialogue louder, and the actors are off-book-- but all the actors still wear every-day clothes, and here they are talking amongst themselves, seemingly indifferent to the fact that they’re performing in two weeks.
Tuesday, November 1--
Tonight there was lighting added to the menagerie of preparations for the play, and it made sitting on a stage for the entirety of Act Three a lot more bearable. With the harp music (soon to be replaced by the orchestra), the amber and blue light emanating onstage, and the twinkling bulbs hanging above the front of the stage like fairy lights, I could almost fall asleep.
The characters with lines have more reason than I do to be here-- they stay only for their lines, before taking their bags and leaving the stage where they sit in the choir chairs completely still (we are dead people in this scene). Here I am, though. Still sitting and watching onstage, wondering what a moon is doing inside a barn.
Lauren (as Emily) is laughing with Delaney-- all it takes is a smile during a serious scene to stir us up into an imaginary stew of laughter.
Thursday, November 3--
There's only a week until show week, and the silliness has yet to subside. The new thing I noticed today-- not that's it's hard to notice, it's actually the tallest thing onstage-- is a wooden ladder. There's only one right now, and Lauren (Emily) towers above Charlie (George), so much so that it's quite comical. Beneath them there's the chorus scene again.
There are many ladders in this play, it will probably be one of the things I remember best about preparations for the play. On the very first day I stayed after school, there was a metal ladder onstage and a group of freshman used it to get a shoe (or was it a hat?) out of a tree.
Another day they were putting up lights on the catwalk and the ladder kept moving from side to side, down the row where I was sitting, a group of “techies” carrying the ladder above my head about six times, there was a joke about me having six times bad luck.
Friday, November 4--
I'm about to go onstage, I can hear the rain sound effects and Mrs. Gibbs (Katie) telling George (Charlie) that he will “catch his death of cold” if he goes out in the rain. Ah, medical misconceptions of the turn of the century. This scene is pretty great, with Rhiannon’s passive-aggressive smiles and the wonderfully awkward acting. And whenever Mr. Hanright takes over somebody's lines (because they've run off to Rite Aid or Amato’s) we all laugh and say he should just do it all himself.
Also, my scenes both involve invisible books. I'm thinking of new names for the play-- George and Emily and Ladders? Sitting: the musical? Bessie The Invisible Horse?
I think I'm slowly going crazy.
Monday, November 7--
Hell Week Has Started.
For those unfamiliar with this term, this is when rehearsals are in full swing. We stay until it's dark outside, with full lights and full costumes (except me with my broken dress), full stress ahead! The costumes are at their period-appropriate perfect: the boys have middle parts that look ridiculous, the girls have bobby-pinned pompadours (the kind that look like mushrooms) that look ridiculous as well.
There are now two tall wooden ladders, and many black and brown wooden chairs to replace the choir chairs. The wooden moon made a screeching sound as it descended during the choir scene, and the line of girls in blouses and skirts burst into laughter.
There's a bucket of candy in Hanright’s room, legend has it that it will boost our morales.
Tuesday, November 8
We had to be backstage today, no sitting in the audience anymore.
And that's where I was for eight hours. It was full show and full makeup, full sound and full props and full orchestra. Everything was in order, or trying to be. I still didn't have a dress, and some other costumes were ripped. Poor Lucy was constantly at her sewing machine, fixing all the holes and missing buttons in our costumes. Anna Bruner and others were working on the pompadours-- they all ended up deflated.
The light was as pretty as ever, the new church windows and their fresh paint looking marvelous, especially considering that our set was supposed to be late. The auditorium was empty, for the last time.
There was another bucket of candy in Hanright’s room today, as well as Subway and Amato’s boxes and wrappers, makeup spread out in front of the many mirrors where the actors were doing each other's sparkly stage makeup.
Thursday, November 10
This is when everything we've worked for comes to a fabulous finish.
And I could have missed it, too. I was sick today, and usually I would have gone home and tried to get better-- instead, I was running around backstage, singing and dancing and eating chips and salsa, trying not to lose my voice or my sanity in the process.
Before the show opened, we were all in a room together-- the actors, the techies, and the orchestra people-- them in black outfits to “blend in”-- and we were holding hands in a circle for “energy”, it was like we were all connected, almost. There are always giggles, always nerves, always tears. The tears only get worse the further into the show, the further into the year. But we all looked around the circle, and every one of us was as important as the other, putting on a show.
To all the audience, it's just opening night-- the first of three performances. To us, however, it's the culmination of several months’ worth of work. I was learning lines for my audition in August, and now it is November, and words spoken by students have been transformed into characters, their motives, and their stories that come together to create one narrative.
And at the end of it all, here we all are, a bunch of crazy people in a room together about to make something amazing.