Martin Luther Ouch-Pouch Jr.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
~Nelson Mandela

It’s been almost a week since I’ve had my pointe shoes on and my feet are thanking me. I was considering posting a picture of my post-show feet but thought I would save myself the embarrassment and all of you the nightmares. You’re welcome.

I have ridiculously small feet for my height- I wear a  6 in street shoes and I’m 5’6- and I like to think it’s because I started pointe when I was eight years old and the years of squashing my feet into these awful contraptions stunted the growth like Chinese foot binding. I know this isn’t true but it’s a better story in my mind than the simple fact that I have small distal proportions; small hands, small feet, small head, small mind.

It’s kind of hard, as much as I hate them, to retire my pointe shoes because I think ballet and the art of dancing on pointe is so very beautiful and the idea that I’m not going to be doing it makes me kind of sad. What can I say, I guess I’m just a slave to my ideal of beauty, even if it does turn my feet into the ugliest thing about me. Well, except for my personality obviously.

In truth, I don’t even like dancing on pointe anymore. So not wearing them anymore is less about a vacation from the shoes themselves, but from that weird, often self-destructive pull that ballet has over me. For instance, a few years ago I almost had to get my pinky toes amputated because I had horrible blisters from my pointe shoes yet refused to take time off which then turned into a bad case of blood poisoning.

Diabetes and therefore, bad circulation make my feet highly susceptible to cuts, infection, and a slow healing process. There are special ‘diabetic’ shoes, and they’re nothing like what I wear in rehearsal. Diabetics are pretty much supposed to avoid anything tight-fitting on the toesies. I feel like I’ve had consistent, dangerous foot problems at least for the past four years. This may also be because pointe shoes are so expensive, and I get a good ‘professional dancer’ discount through a local store here in St. Louis, but they never seem to carry anything in my size and even when I order them MONTHS in advance, they don’t come in on time, so I’ll buy whatever even if- like my last pair- they’re just a little too narrow which means I can’t fit the padding I prefer to use in the box of the shoe (I like the fabric-on-the-outside, gel-on-the-inside junior ouch pouches- and the ‘box’ is the part of the shoe around the toes). Oh the hassles of dancer life. You would think that having something called an ‘ouch pouch’ as a staple of the profession would set off enough red flags.

If I were to advise myself in retrospect, I would probably ignore the discount I get here, and order them through ‘discount dance’ which isn’t quite as cheap but is timely and probably far less expensive than a huge medical bill to have my foot sawed off. I probably make the cost up in bandaids and neosporin anyways. And I like having all five of my toes.

This little piggy went to the podiatrist. So did the others.

This little piggy soaked in epsom salts and warm water. This little piggy went numb.

And all of my little piggies cried,

‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank Balanchine almighty, we are free at last!”

3 thoughts on “Martin Luther Ouch-Pouch Jr.

  1. This was funny. My first pair were Freeds which I always found ironic considering I was professionally fitted and I was a beginner. After my very first pointe class my pinky toenails turned black and fell off. No, I don’t have fond memories of my first pair. Not until I tried Capezios did I find love.

    Anyway, I’d love to follow your blog. Would you be interested in posting a link to mine? I’m Dallas-based.

    Look forward to hearing from you!

  2. Hey Bethany- good to hear from you! I think my first pair were capezios because they were the smallest shoe made in America. I still had to stuff them with lambswool and toe pads! And actually, it was capezio elans that began a lot of trouble for me, but they were what I wore when I joined a company that paid for a season’s worth of shoes, so that’s what I wore. I loved the Bloch 111’s, which were a hybrid freed/bloch but they stopped making them. and sure, I’ll link to your blog if you link to mine. Dancers unite!

  3. It could have been due to the fact that you started so young. I know that most places disregard this, but depending on the person it can be unhealthy to go en pointe younger than ten to twelve. I started pointe when I was 13 and it has never hurt for me. How ever, I don’t dance professionally and my studio isn’t exactly strictly ballet

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