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For My Pointe Shoe: Variations on a Poem by Christopher Smart


For I will consider my pointe shoe.

For she is the servant of the dance.

For at first glance, she is full of pink satin luster.

For she has been revered by all choreographers with a foot fetish--

          Taglioni, Bournonville, Petipa, Fokine, Ashton, Martins, and Neumeier.

For the first pair of pointe shoes causes the most blisters.

For the feet have not yet built up calluses.

For the dancer must tape up the toes and use lambs wool or padding,

          since the feet are like soft peaches.

For it takes a long time to find the right pointe shoe.

For I have tried Capezio, Gamba, Freed, Sansha, and Bloch.

For while dancing in Germany, I tried Schactner, an Austrian pointe shoe.

For I prefer Schactner to all other brands.

For her perfect shape is a cradle for my foot.

For her long ribbons wind around my ankles like wild honeysuckle around a sapling.

For Schactners are lightweight and flexible, allowing me to perform petite and grand          


without making a lot of noise, when I run or jump on the sprung wood floor.

For I do not have to scrape the soles of these shoes or fear slipping on a raked stage.

For I don’t mind rehearsing many hours in Schactners or wearing them for the barre,

             because they feel like bedroom slippers.

For I do not have to brush shellac on these pointe shoes to make them last longer,

or bake them in the oven on low heat to dry them after rehearsals.

For these pointe shoes do not wear out quickly, and I can dance in them for several performances,

whereas some ballerinas use three pairs of shoes for one ballet.

For in these pointe shoes, I can execute thirty-two fouettés whipping my leg around in  


like the Black Swan in Swan Lake.

For I can order a split-sole, which makes my pointed foot beautiful

in tendu, dégagé, and dévelopé, in just the way that Mr. Balanchine liked.

For I do not have to darn the tips of these pointe shoes and can spend the time saved                 

                                                                                                                   reading poetry.

For I can order a high vamp, which helps me to balance in attitude

for 30 seconds or more in the “Rose Adagio.”

For in these pointe shoes, I danced in Wiener Blut at the Niedersächsische Statstheater

in Hannover, Germany in 1974 and met my husband, Robert Riggs,

when he sat down next to me at a table full of ballet dancers,

cradling his violin in his arm, and this led to having our daughter,

Diana Elizabeth, who is as pretty and helpful as a good pointe shoe.


Mary Barres Riggs

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012