There are a variety of prices for the exquisite and agonizing pointe shoe. The time invested over many years of practice, many nights of using resistance bands, and many hours of sewing adds up. Comfort levels are affected by the amount of blood lost from cuts, scrapes, and bruises. And of course, there's also the matter of actual money being spent. If pointe were a restaurant, it would have five dollar signs next to it on Yelp.

Masses of Pointe Shoes from the English National Ballet

While the cost of pointe shoes varies by brand, most ballerinas spend between and on a pair. This does not include the cost of additional accessories like ribbons, elastic, and toe pads. As kids, we could never leave the ballet store without dropping at least a hundred dollars.

Price-wise, this is comparable to other sports footwear such as basketball and baseball cleats, but we all know that the life expectancy of a pointe shoe is much lower. Both professionals and serious students can easily wear out a pair of dance shoes in a matter of days. The aesthetics of the shoe are not the reason for our objection to dancing in dead pointe ones; rather, it is the dancer's own safety that is at stake. Therefore, Pointe is not the place to try to save money.

We might as well ask, given its inevitability: where does this astronomical cost originate? When you break it down, the most expensive components of a pair of pointe shoes are glue and canvas, which are both relatively cheap. Although they appear straightforward, most pointe shoes are still made, at least in part, by hand in relatively small batches, and they must be extremely precise in order to be worn. You can tell the difference between a good shoe and a bad one by just a few millimeters. As a result, we expect people to make shoes with the precision of a machine. It's a costly talent to have.

Furthermore, the constant demand for new pairs of shoes is a result of the high turnover rate among dancers. Shoe durability can be improved in only a few ways. Some people might be able to buy a little more time with super glue and shellac, but not much. Because dancers tend to stick with the same brand of pointe shoes once they find one that works for them, manufacturers can count on consistent high demand. The value of a pair of pointe shoes is predicated on their durability. We're forking over cash to ensure that this particular model of shoe will always be in stock and that its design won't vary by more than a few millimeters from one pair to the next.

Regardless of where a dancer is in their career, the financial pressure of this reliability is always present. It could be a business, a performer, or even a family. Each circumstance presents its own set of difficulties and repercussions.

New York City Ballet's shoe storage room (photo by Tess Mayer).

Dancers in professional ballet companies typically have their footwear provided for them. The typical weekly or monthly pair production rate varies by company size. Aside from a few notable exceptions, this data is almost never made public. In an interview with DanceSpirit Magazine from 2018, New York City Ballet stated that they supply dancers with an unlimited supply of shoes, both ballet slippers and character shoes for story ballets.

This year, City Ballet, which is well-known for its frequent use of pointe, spent 0,000 on footwear. Famous for its large ensemble and extensive use of pointe work, the Royal Ballet goes through 6,000 pairs of pointe shoes each season. Smaller companies with a wider range of shoes in their repertoire will use fewer pairs; Smuin Contemporary Ballet, for example, reported their total cost for shoes in 2016 to be $35,000.

Skylar Brandt, a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, autographed a pair of shoes (photo credit: Cloud and Victory).

These fixed costs can have a significant impact on the annual budgets of any non-profit organization, which is why many dance companies use pointe shoes as a fundraising tool. Companies frequently resell autographed footwear to devoted customers. Authentic pairs worn by Principal Dancers at American Ballet Theatre can be purchased for over $200. However, this approach is highly dependent on the star quality of the individual dancer. For instance, the shoe of a corps member will not fetch the same price as that of a principal dancer from a less prestigious dance company. As an added complication, we have no idea how many pairs are sold annually by the company or the dancers; if every pair was sold, the oversupply would significantly lower this price. Instead, they seem to keep these options scarce so that the high price tag remains enticing. To what extent this might therefore mitigate such astronomical costs is unclear.

A lot of businesses openly hold annual pointe shoe fundraisers, where they specifically ask for money to be used for this purpose. Every year, the Royal Ballet releases a new video or photo for its annual Pointe Shoe Appeal, which raises money by selling off the ballet company's used pointe shoes. Donation levels are categorized using opera superstar Marianela Nuez this year. For example, a donation of £20 ($22) would buy Nela ribbon for the entire season, while a donation of £351 ($390) would see her through a run of Don Quixote performances.

Fundraising campaigns like these are often presented as a humorous way to show your support for your local ballet, but they actually represent a significant source of revenue for the companies. Without the confidence that comes from wearing the right shoes, dancers can't give their all to a performance. In addition, dancers, who typically work for very low wages, can find great solace in the provision of sufficient footwear.

The Boston Ballet's first-year corps de ballet members reportedly earned $1,262 in salary, per The Houston Chronicle. On average, there are 53 new articles every week in 2018. Given the typical length of a ballet company's season (around 40 weeks), this equates to an annual salary of $50,500 for the dancer. The same dancer's salary would drop to around $38,000 if she was responsible for purchasing her own pointe shoes, even if she only used two or three pairs per week. When you do the math, you can see how much of a difference a pointe shoe program can make in easing the financial burden on dancers, especially those who perform for smaller companies with much lower pay-grades.

However, keep in mind that even the largest corporations will only provide their employees with shoes for the season. During the off-season, many dancers spend their own money on shoes so they can perform as guest artists at dance festivals and with other companies. In some cases, if dancers haven't gone through as many pairs of shoes as their Shoe Room directors expected, they can reuse the shoes from previous seasons' orders. When ABT soloist Skylar Brandt said her custom-order Capezios only last her about three weeks, she shocked The Pointe Shop owner Jospehine Lee. Lee addressed the camera directly and said, "that's very rare." NOT what you're hoping for Brandt agreed with this assessment and laughed as she reflected on how fortunate she is to have so many pairs of shoes left over to wear during her summer engagements and guest performances (all of which are still being covered by ABT).

Professional dancers may benefit greatly from these subsidized shoes, but the years of student pointe work required to reach that level almost never receive such support. As an example, custom-made footwear is rarely seen amongst student populations. It can take up to a year for a company to begin paying for a dancer's customized shoes once they have signed a contract to join the company's Corps de Ballet. For this reason, most students wear stock shoes to class, which are slightly more affordable than a custom pair. When students go through several pairs of shoes per month, even a difference of $10 can add up.

Sometimes, students attending the schools of prominent corporations receive a shoe allowance, though it is much smaller than that enjoyed by employees of the corporation. As a student at Miami City Ballet School in 2015, Mayumi Enokibara told Teen Vogue that she received four pairs of pointe shoes per month, but quickly added that this wasn't enough. She leaned over a bin stuffed with satin slippers and declared, "Every money that I'll get, I'll save it to buy pointe shoes." When it's my birthday, I'll act just like my mom and be asked what I want. Ballet flats Enokibara is currently a member of the Miami City Ballet's Corps de Ballet.

In addition, students at these elite institutions have special access to the company's reject footwear. Shoes returned by dancers at New York City Ballet are stored in a room at the School of American Ballet, which is located in the same building. Shoes that would be rejected by a professional dancer due to the high standards required of them are often suitable for students. In addition, they are fully funded at this point.

Not included in these analyses are the students at non-affiliated schools around the world who pay full price for every pair of pointe shoes they wear.

The cost of raising a ballet dancer is high, as it is with any professional sport; one estimate puts the sum at more than $120,000. About one-fourth of that price was for Pointe alone. In the beginning of their training, students often struggle with the high cost of pointe shoes and the never-ending quest to find the perfect fit.

Shoe shopping can be frustrating due to the wide variety of brands and styles available; finding the right pair for your feet requires trial and error (and a skilled shoe fitter). ) Conversely, pointe shoes that work for younger students who dance less frequently can sometimes last for months. Not only is it uncomfortable, but training in the wrong shoe can teach the dancer's body the wrong placement, which can throw them off when they finally acquire the proper footwear. Because of this, dance students are put under the most financial stress at the most unstable time in their careers. A professional will not waste time or money on a pair of shoes that she doesn't like. A student may have been hoping to get six more months out of a pair of shoes that are now killing her toes. (Because ballerinas typically sew their own pointe shoes, they are a final sale item.) )

The high cost of starting over is a reality for many ballet families and likely contributes to the industry's lack of socioeconomic diversity. Sad to say, many would-be dance greats may be hampered by shoes that are either worn out or don't fit properly.

We can only hope that more people will become aware of this issue because we have no way of fixing it. Financially, pointe work puts a lot of stress on a lot of different budgets, big and small. Learning more about this is a good representation of the economic stress that is often concealed by the opulence of a ballet performance. Just as dancers are coached to make their moves appear effortless, so too can the stress of balancing a budget be concealed by an air of effortless magnificence.