Young dancers en pointe for new ballet shoes

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.

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