[Adapted from a really old piece from my formerly-pseudonymous blog]
This is half of the last pair shoes I danced in, and half of the shoes I stopped thinking of myself as a dancer in. On the left, Grishko 2007’s in a medium shank, size 6, 5X wide. On the right, Sansha Recitals, size 10, medium width. It’s a point of pride to me that I can still name them–years of walking up the counter and the smell of rosin.
Medium shank, but I’ll take soft if you have it.
And, ah, 5X?
The broken in shoe smells a little musty. It’s fully ‘dead’, all squishy in the toe and right above the nail in the arch. I wore it in a flapper dress, with a huge feather. I wore it in a full length silk skirt, dancing to music from the African Symphony Orchestra, flirting with the audience to Santana, and in my last performance, when I cried because the audience applauded, and I was shaking tired and my feet were bloody, and I just wanted to keep making them clap.
The new shoe still isn’t sewn all the way. The come without ribbons, in pink boxes. You pull them out and spend an hour jabbing away at layers of canvas and silk to put all the ties on. I never finished adding the elastics. The shoe isn’t broken in. I’ve stood up on my toes in them, but I haven’t rubbed them with water and rubbing alcohol, or banged them against the floor and heated and bent them in my hands. They aren’t molded to my feet, musty, or dull. New shoes hurt. And because I figured out that summer that too many mirrors meant eating too little food, they’ll never get that treatment. No matter how well I made myself behave, and eat, and like my curves, being in that room tore it to shreds.
So I stopped being a dancer. I was one, for 15 years. I’ll always walk like one, love moving and dipping and turning.
Each time I move, I’ll unpack a box of leotards, holding each one up. Year after year, red and black and navy, halters and ladder-backed and with little edges of print fabric. Leg warmers, custom made, one set. Another, with a hole in the heel. Soft and warm with memories of early Saturdays in the studio.
I should throw them out, I tell my roommate. She’s the third roommate to hear it. And then I’ll fold them all back up. Roll the legwarmers, wrap the ribbons around the shoes. Two boxes, stacked in the corner of our closet.