Young dancers en pointe for new ballet shoes

Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Sophia Monte, 11, of Stonington, on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Sophia Monte, 11, of Stonington, on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

East Lyme — Young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet are fitted with their first pointe shoes Saturday in a rite of passage for ballet dancers.

Damara Bennett, head of the children's program at the ballet, assisted Freed of London pointe shoe fitters Kelsie James and Emma Rishel in custom-fitting each dancer. Bennett, who teaches levels 1-8 at the ballet, says most dancers get their first pointe shoes about age 10 or 11 when they are in the level 3 class.

A first pointe shoe may last as long as six months; many dancers will outgrow them before they wear them out, according to Bennett. More experienced dancers will wear out a pair of pointe shoes more quickly. "Sometimes after one performance," Bennett added.

James, a former ballet dancer herself, figures she has fitted more than 10,000 pairs of pointe shoes in the three years she has been fitting for Freed. She travels all over the country to schools and companies sponsored by Freed. "Every dancer is different, every foot is different," she says of her job. "It's like finding the perfect shoe for Cinderella." 

With her daughter, 11-year old Sophia, talking new pointe shoes with a classmate, Melissa Lin Monte explained the young dancer's enthusiasm. "She was so excited she woke up early this morning," she explained. "This is definitely a dream come true for her," she added.

About 50 dancers had appointments for pointe shoe fittings this weekend at ECB.

Kelsie James, a pointe shoe fitter with Freed of London, searches her stock for pointe shoes for a young dancer at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet during a fitting session Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Kelsie James, a pointe shoe fitter with Freed of London, searches her stock for pointe shoes for a young dancer at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet during a fitting session Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Kelsie James, a pointe shoe fitter with Freed of London prepares a pointe shoe for a young dancer at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet during a fitting session Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Kelsie James, a pointe shoe fitter with Freed of London prepares a pointe shoe for a young dancer at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet during a fitting session Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Nora Myers, 9, of New London tests the feel of a pointe shoe during a fitting session with representatives of the Freed of London ballet shoe company Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Nora Myers, 9, of New London tests the feel of a pointe shoe during a fitting session with representatives of the Freed of London ballet shoe company Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Nora Myers, 9, of New London on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Nora Myers, 9, of New London on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Lilly McGuire, 11, of New London on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, works with Lilly McGuire, 11, of New London on fitting the dancer's first pair of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, kneeling at left, and Kelsie James, right, of Freed of London, work with dancers Lilly MaGuire, 11, foreground, and Chloe McIlhenny, 10, on fitting the dancers' first pairs of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. The girls' parents, David and Belinda McIlhenny, and Allie McGuire, document the moment from the background. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Damara Bennett, director of children's programming at the Eastern Connecticut Ballet, kneeling at left, and Kelsie James, right, of Freed of London, work with dancers Lilly MaGuire, 11, foreground, and Chloe McIlhenny, 10, on fitting the dancers' first pairs of pointe shoes during a fitting session for young dancers with the Eastern Connecticut Ballet on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. The girls' parents, David and Belinda McIlhenny, and Allie McGuire, document the moment from the background. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Stephanie McAdams of Lyme holds her youngest daughter, Catherine, 1, as she watches her daughter Bridget, 10, get fitted for her first pair of ballet pointe shoes with Eastern Connecticut Ballet Director of Children's Programs Damara Bennett, right, and Freed of London pointe shoe-fitter Emma Rishel, center, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. McAdams has four other daughters studying ballet at the school, two of whom are already dancing en pointe and had fittings scheduled for later in the morning.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Stephanie McAdams of Lyme holds her youngest daughter, Catherine, 1, as she watches her daughter Bridget, 10, get fitted for her first pair of ballet pointe shoes with Eastern Connecticut Ballet Director of Children's Programs Damara Bennett, right, and Freed of London pointe shoe-fitter Emma Rishel, center, on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in East Lyme. McAdams has four other daughters studying ballet at the school, two of whom are already dancing en pointe and had fittings scheduled for later in the morning. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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