Anatomy 101: Pointe Shoes & Hot Cocoa

Confession: My beverage of choice these past few blustery months has been hot chocolate.  Swiss Miss powder right out of the package mixed haphazardly with hot water–it warms me up and satisfies my sweet tooth, but I realized I’ve been settling for subpar.  This week, I decided to take matters into my own hands: after a winter season of watery hot chocolate, I set out to create a creamier, chocolatey-er concoction.  I worked within a few common college constraints: it had to be quick, easy, and cheap.

I researched recipes for homemade hot cocoa online, but they all involved multiple ingredients I didn’t have on hand, so in the name of simplicity (or laziness?) I started out with the usual culprit—one packet of Swiss Miss milk chocolate hot cocoa mix.  To hopefully make my drink a bit thicker, I chose a cup of whole milk rather than water and warmed it in the microwave.  I mixed the two together, then added mini marshmallows, business as usual.

Here’s where I changed things up.  I threw in a few—okay, maybe an entire handful—of semi-sweet chocolate chips and stirred it all up.  I topped it with a heaping swirl of whipped cream and decorated it with more marshmallows, chocolate chips, and the key ingredient, cinnamon.  In less than five minutes and without any hassle, I had the hot chocolate of my dreams!  It was much sweeter, more chocolatey, and a lot more calories than my previous powder/water blend, but it was worth it.  The chocolate chips melted and added richness, while the cinnamon gave it a spicy warmth for the perfect finishing touch.

As I drank my hot cocoa creation, I also put the finishing touches on my new pair of pointe shoes.  For the uninitiated, pointe shoes are ballet slippers made of wood and covered in satin that allow the dancer to stand all the way up on tip toes.  The effect is supposed to look like the dancer is floating with grace and elegance, though it takes a lot of hard work to make it look effortless.

Pointe shoes only last through about 12 hours of dancing.  While I replace my shoes every few months, a professional dancer might use up to 10 pairs of pointe shoes in a week, with a new pair for each performance.  To help us stand on our toes, dancers often use some combination of toe pads made of fabric, foam or gel, lambswool, toe spacers and gel caps for cushioning; however, professionals like ABT principal dancer Isabella Boylston often forego padding altogether in order to better feel the floor and articulate the feet through the shoes.  Have I mentioned how hard core ballerinas are?4c7174f16cb1403bc973a91c2dfc58c3

Upon purchasing a new pair of pointe shoes, they come completely bare.  Each dancer sews on her own ribbons, which tie around the ankle for support, and elastic, which helps keep the shoe on the foot.  Every dancer has her (or in some cases his) own way of sewing the ribbons and elastics for the maximum support and cleanest look.  That was my project over this weekend.

Although my new shoes are sewn, they’re not ready to wear just yet.  Like any other new sneaker or high-heeled shoe, brand new pointe shoes are very rigid and uncomfortable at first.  They need to be broken in before wearing to give the shoes flexibility and shape, otherwise you’d literally be trying to dance with heavy blocks of wood on your feet.  Not comfy or pretty.  Breaking in pointe shoes is another process in itself, so I’ll save that for another post.

Just as there are a myriad of ways to sew a pointe shoe, there is also a myriad of pointe shoe manufacturers and a variety of styles within each brand.  The fit is in the details, so it may take a dancer a few tries to find the right shoe for her foot.  In addition, different styles within a brand are known for having different details, styles, and colors, so finding the perfect pair takes patience.  But when you do, the satisfaction of slipping on the perfect satiny shoe is *sew* sweet.

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