Our third and final day of our dancer retreat started EARLY!!!
Okay, 7am isn’t particularly early, but… the kids were going to attend ballet class at the Saratoga Summer Dance Intensive where our dancer who was understudying for the NYCB kids was taking class. They stumbled up the stairs from their basement sleeping quarters bleary-eyed, but wearing their pink tights and black leotards, all bunned up and raring to go. We had to get breakfast eaten and bags packed before we left to take them to the studios behind the National Dance Museum for 9, so it was a hectic morning.
I had almost allowed myself to get signed up to take one of the intensive classes, but the pointe shoe fitting I scheduled made that an impossibility. When we got to the studios to check the kids in I was rather relieved at that particular turn of events. The master class we took the day before was one thing — there had been a wide range of ages in that class, from tween to 50+. But the intensive was ALL kids. I can pass for a few years younger than my age, but not THAT much younger! So I can’t say that I regretted not being able to take the class.
I met up with the understudy’s mom who was taking her other daughter for a pointe shoe fitting and we drove back to Saratoga Dance. My fitting was second, so I poked around the store a bit more, but being afraid of dropping any more money (especially seeing as I already expected I may walk out with a pair of pointe shoes!) I ended up perching myself so that I could watch the fitting process for my young friend.
Once again, huge kudos to Katie, the fitter at Saratoga Dance. This young dancer’s feet are particularly challenging to fit. Katie acknowledged this, but never expressed doubt that she’d find a good shoe for this girl. She tried on a couple pairs that were okay, then came back with a Grishko Maya that she had ordered for another dancer. She knew it wasn’t quite the right size, but they were close and she had an inkling that they design of the shoe might work. Though it was a tight squeeze, this young girl was determined to get this shoe on. She went up en pointe, and gosh, even though they weren’t quite the right size, they looked lovely.
Katie left to check on something else and the dancer’s mom asked her which shoe she felt best in. She literally hugged the Maya’s to her and said, “These!” Soooo sweet to see her find shoes that she loved. Even though she wasn’t able to get the shoes then and there, she walked out of the store knowing that a beautiful pair of pointes would soon be on their way to her. Can’t wait to see how they work out for her in class!
Well, then it was my turn for a fitting. Since I hadn’t planned to have one I hadn’t brought my pointe shoes with me, but I told her what I was wearing and Katie told me her opinion of Freed Classics: “You can spend your entire life chasing a shoe you had once.” And I can certainly see how that can be the case. Because they are handcrafted they can be iffy. This is why companies order so many shoes and dancers go through them and probably never use half of the ones ordered for them because they don’t feel quite right.
And this feeds into part of my reason for wanting a fitting… it’s frustrating to spend $100 on a custom shoe that you have to wait 3 months for and then might not fit right. It would be nice to find a stock shoe that works for non-professional me. Katie brought out a pair of Freeds just to get a sense of how they work for me. She also suggested spacers between my first and second toes. My toes tend to compress and it’s been putting a lot of pressure on my second and third toes… plus I keep losing that right big toenail. The spacers she had were different than the ones I tried previously. The ones I had before seemed bulky and didn’t do much. These I couldn’t even feel, but I could tell actually worked.
Then came the question: “How do you feel about Gaynors?” Eeeeeekkkk. Um. Gosh. Well, I don’t really know HOW I feel about Gaynors. I’ve heard the arguments on both sides and I can see validity to both points. My main beef is that I think they look horrendously ugly on most people I’ve seen who wear them. I will also concede, however, that part of the ugliness could very well be due to poor fit. The fitter told me that a lot of issues she sees are due to that exact problem.
Well, hey, it’s a fitting. I’ll try whatever is put in front of me. The only other time I tried Gaynors on was before I returned to pointe, so it would be good to try. So she brought out a pair, along with a couple other traditional shoes. We tried the Gaynors first and they are pretty comfortable (you know… for a pointe shoe). And I surprisingly liked the way the shank felt on my arch. They… well, they didn’t look bad. So they stayed in the running. I also tried a Suffolk which is a brand I’ve been wanting to try (and one that a few of our girls ended up with), but have had a hard time finding. I felt pretty good in those, too. I also tried a pair of Grishko 2007s, which I’ve worn before. This pair seemed to fit better than the ones I had, but didn’t particularly wow me, and the fact that I’d already had an iffy experience with them… nah. I’m trying to remember what, if any, other shoes I tried. Clearly they weren’t memorable, if they existed!
So, it boiled down to the Gaynor Mindens and the Suffolks. Katie preferred the Gaynors, both for looks and for durability, comfort, etc. And… I got them. This doesn’t mean I’m throwing in the towel on the Freeds (more to come on that in another post), but this is a shoe I’ve been intrigued by for quite some time and I’m looking forward to developing a more educated opinion of them. Stay tuned for updates on that front!
Okay, with shoes in hand… we did a little bit more exploring of Saratoga. Our time was limited so I didn’t get to poke in all the adorable shops, but we did find an adorable diner, a fabulous olive oil & balsamic vinegar store (dark chocolate balsamic condimento is the shiz-nit!!!), wandered to Congress Park and watched the kids ride the carousel and took pictures of the children, then got some fro-yo (soft-serve raspberry chocolate sorbet is ALSO the shiz-nit!!!).
With the clock ticking and one more stop to make, we ended our tour of town and loaded back in the car. We stopped at the National Dance Museum on the way out of town. At that hour I decided I’d be fine with just browsing their gift shop for a souvenir (I suppose pointe shoes would have been an adequate souvenir, but they don’t exactly scream “Saratoga!” and that’s what I was looking for!). I found a book on the history of dance in Saratoga and also got some cute baby legwarmers for a little friend of mine. My friend and her daughters and the other girls with us continued browsing while I went to powder my nose.
As I was coming back out my friend said that the gift shop lady said that due to the fact that the museum was closing relatively soon, she wouldn’t charge us if we wanted to go through the exhibits. How nice was that?! So we zipped through the Hall of Fame as well as a couple of the special exhibits going on. There were photos in the foyer from Dancers Among Us, which are trés cool. I think I might need to add that book to my wish list. They also had an En Pointe exhibit sponsored by various pointe shoe makers showing what goes into constructing pointe shoes, how dancers take care of their feet, etc. It was a quick visit, but glad we at least got to see a bit of it!
And then it was back on the road towards home. There was tons more I would have gladly done in Saratoga, but we managed to pack quite a lot in to 48 hours! This town really is a bit of a dancer’s paradise, so if you ever get the chance, check it out. I loved sharing this experience with some of my friends and hope to get back there again soon! There are many shops to be browsed, restaurants to be sampled, and, oh yeah, Sun King Adult Dance Camp!!!