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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Attiudes and info from dance wear store clerks


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I recently went into a dance wear store to price out demi point slippers. And of course, to oogle at the pointe shoes. I don't have a teacher yet because I'm not in classes at the moment. So I was asking her questions about prepping my feet for advancement and whether half sole ballet slippers would be better than full sole. Which is something that came to my attention on the net that I wasn't sure about. Just simple questions mainly about ballet wear I believe I should know. This clerk made me feel as though she just did not want me there unless I was buying something. I bought my daughter some gymanstic shoes (she has been in 2 gymanstic classes in community centers before. And I plan on signing her up again.) just so I wouldn't feel guilty about leaving empty handed and having an upset clerk. I know clerks are not ballet teachers. But I didn't think looking around and pricing stuff out to be entirely bothersome considering I'm into belly dance as well and thought I'd see what kind of belly dance costumes they had. Plus I really had to know how much ballet shoes are along so I know if this is something I can afford.

 

*edited by moderator to remove inappropriate wording for public board

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Flora. In preparing to get back to class, I hope you find lots here that will be useful for you. We currently have several threads about people about to start ballet as adults.

 

On your particular issue, I suppose there's a mixture here of the normal desire a shop assistant might have for making a sale, and the expertise we hope that sales people in dance wear shops might have. On that latter point, I think it's generally a good thing that a sales person might be reticent about pointe shoes and so on, if s/he is not sure about your training and preparedness for pointe work. We hear horror stores about people with no training and not in ballet class buying pointe shoes to "learn" at home ... so some caution from the sales person is overall, probably a good thing, but not, of course, if she was outrightly rude to you!

 

(I've moved this to the Buddy Board).

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  • 3 weeks later...

At least they let you look at the things even if you are not ready to buy in most places.

I saw something on TV last night called "The History of the Bra" and there was a bit about one bra shop in NYC that says they keep all the bras under lock and key in the basement because customers can't be trusted to buy the right bra or correct size.

It is kind of a sales gimmick as it probably adds a bit of something special about the store's service, but it is a wonder they don't do the same kind of with pointe shoes. Actually in some places space is tight so they sort of do.....

At least in most places a single shoe of each brand and style is usually on display so you know what brands and styles the store carries.

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I think it is the same for many speciality stores (ski shops, electronic, jewelry, even auto part stores!). It depends on the sales person's personality, how crowded the shop is, what else is going on, etc. I would hope that all sales people would understand that it is good for the shop to always be pleasant and accomodating to any "shopper" because you never know what might lead to a sale. I have gone to my local dancewear shop, and they know I'm not there to buy anything, I'm just checking out what's new, and depending on who is working there on that day, and what else is going on with the shop, I'm treated with courtesy or complete indifference. I try to not let it bother me, I just ask the questions I have and hope for the best!

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<ahem> Mod Hat on: Without wanting to shut down a useful conversation, can we stick - roughly vaguely, nominally - to ballet-related observations please?

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One thing I suppose all of us need to get used to as adult ballet dancers is the perception on the part of the general public that ballet is done by little girls.

 

After being away for a couple of years, I returned to ballet in my late twenties, and at that time I got quizzical looks from the store clerk when I told her that I was buying the ballet slippers for myself.

 

I've been back to ballet for quite some time now, so most of the clerks do know me, and a few remember my preferences in various pieces of dancewear and dance gear. One of the fitters is a semi-retired teacher, and knows my feet well. She frequently shares with me stories of people who come in, get fitted, leave without buying anything, and then purchase the same thing from a website. Another store in my area charges a thirty dollar fitting fee, which is applicable to the purchase of pointe shoes. This cuts down on wasting these people's time when the customer has no intention of making a purchase there. There may be times when the store is practically empty, but there are other times (like the beginning of the academic, and studio year, where the lines for fittings may be long.

 

I heard this story from a dancer friend of mine in New York City. It may be apocryphal; she does have a tendency to dramatize, but it does highlight the kinds of things that store clerks have to endure from dance wannabes, especially when pointe shoes are involved.

 

My friend says she was getting fitted for pointes at one of the dance stores when in walked a girl in her early twenties, with her mother in tow. It seems the young lady in question was getting married, and wanted a pair of pointe shoes for her wedding ensemble, complete with ribbons. She had never taken a ballet lesson in her life, and wouldn't have known fifth position from a fouette, but she wanted pointe shoes. She had dreamed of them as wedding shoes all her life, you see.

 

At first the clerk tried to explain that they aren't sold to people without the appropriate training, but Mama was a formidable advocate for her darling daughter. So the two were ushered over to the fitting area, the young lady's feet were measured, and shoes were brought out pair by pair. Other saleswomen were beginning to gather to watch the unusual proceeding, and my friend says she was too intrigued by it to be polite enough to pretend she wasn't paying attention.

 

In lieu of asking the young lady to stand in second and plie deeply, or to put a foot en pointe, the fitter asked her to walk about ten feet and turn and walk back. The expression of horror and agony on this girl's face was chilling. She gratefully sat down, took the shoes off, and she and Mama left the dance shop in a hurry, presumably to go to a store that sells street shoes!

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In lieu of asking the young lady to stand in second and plie deeply, or to put a foot en pointe, the fitter asked her to walk about ten feet and turn and walk back. The expression of horror and agony on this girl's face was chilling. She gratefully sat down, took the shoes off, and she and Mama left the dance shop in a hurry, presumably to go to a store that sells street shoes!

 

Are they really that uncomfortable? Or doesn it depend on your tolernce to foot discomforts? I used to wear some pretty high pumps for modeling class and endured swollen, calloused feet. So I'm not a stranger to feet pain. But is the fact that pointes are fitted so your toes touch the tip of the shoes and the fact that when you stand your foot expends a little have something to do with added pressure and pain that would make them so uncomfortable? Or does it more depend on how long your nails are? Maybe that girls toenails were too long? But some girls describe it as concrete.

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Nice story about the bride-to-be.

 

"Are they really that uncomfortable?"

 

Yes.

 

"Or doesn it depend on your tolernce to foot discomforts?"

 

You can get used to anything, except death (quotation; actually, I dont agree).

 

Jim.

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As a teacher, I frequent several stores in my area. I recently had to begin wearing an orthotic in my soft slippers to help with the pain of plantar fasciitis. I went to the store closest to me with the orthotics in tow. This store has dates on all of their merchandise which indicates when it arrived as new stock. After trying on several pairs of slippers without liking how they fit with the orthotic, I was getting ready to leave and go elsewhere. The clerk informed me to give her just a moment and she would see if there was anything else that may work. Out came the newest pair of Bloch's leather shoe with the neoprene outer shoe for the back half. After being satisfied with how my foot would point in this shoe, I discretely checked the dates on the other boxes of shoes I had tried on. Several of the shoes were over 3 years old. Obviously this store clerk was more interested in getting rid of old stock than having a satisfied customer. I thought that pretty sad, especially since I would be someone who would advise my own students where to shop :)

 

Having worked in corporate and retail banking for about 10 years in addition to my teaching, we received a lot of customer service training. One workshop we attended taught us that word of mouth is the BIGGEST marketing tool most businesses can utilize. One negative comment about the service received at a retail location can do serious damage. Too bad many dancewear businesses are unaware of this.

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This store has dates on all of their merchandise which indicates when it arrived as new stock.
Oh - this is a good idea, I wish my store would do this. And yes, word of mouth is the best advertisement. There's also the saying, one bad thing will spread 100 times, it takes 100 good things to spread once.
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tangerinetwist, I wouldn't judge the store too harshly, rotating stock is a necessity in business & especially in this economic climate small businesses really have to tighten the belt in order to survive. I don't profess to know what the "shelf life" of a pair of ballet slippers is, however. Do they "expire" after a certain time period?

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On that latter point, I think it's generally a good thing that a sales person might be reticent about pointe shoes and so on, if s/he is not sure about your training and preparedness for pointe work.

 

In addition (and I'm not saying that Flora did this, but rather making a more general statement), pointe shoe stock is not really for customers to look at, and rarely do shoes have prices on them. Pointe shoes have so many variations that they are often organized very specifically, and no store owner would want that to even slightly be touched. In addition, many pointe shoes are fairly delicate, and are hard to keep pristinely clean. I don't even like good, trusted friends to touch my pointe shoes! I have never seen a store that would allow customers to touch shoes on the shelves, and if I did, I'd turn and walk out.

 

Are they really that uncomfortable? Or doesn it depend on your tolernce to foot discomforts? I used to wear some pretty high pumps for modeling class and endured swollen, calloused feet. So I'm not a stranger to feet pain. But is the fact that pointes are fitted so your toes touch the tip of the shoes and the fact that when you stand your foot expends a little have something to do with added pressure and pain that would make them so uncomfortable? Or does it more depend on how long your nails are? Maybe that girls toenails were too long? But some girls describe it as concrete.

 

To follow up on this and jimpickles response, I heartily disagree. I would state that it depends mostly on your technique. However, there are a lot of feet and muscular/skeletal constructions that are also not suitable for pointe work. For the most part, I actually feel very comfortable in pointe shoes. But pointe is not the end all and be all of ballet technique.

 

Flora, I find your enthusiasm infectious. However, I'd also encourage you not to put the cart before the horse! Focus on classes, good classes, and learning all you can from your teachers. In fact, that's what I'd say to any dancer, from the most beginning to the most advanced.

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tangerinetwist, I wouldn't judge the store too harshly, rotating stock is a necessity in business & especially in this economic climate small businesses really have to tighten the belt in order to survive. I don't profess to know what the "shelf life" of a pair of ballet slippers is, however. Do they "expire" after a certain time period?

 

My point was more that they wouldn't show me the newer items until they had exhausted their resources without me being satisfied with the older models. If I take my kids to a Stride Rite store for school shoes, I expect that they will show me whatever they have in stock in their size. If the sales clerk were that interested in making the sale, why would she not have shown me EVERY style available in my size until waiting til I was ready to walk out the door to bring out the new stuff?

 

And again, as I always identify myself as a teacher if the sales clerk doesn't recognize me, if I am not satisfied with the service I receive or the selection offered to me, why would I want to send my students there?

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My point was more that they wouldn't show me the newer items until they had exhausted their resources without me being satisfied with the older models. If I take my kids to a Stride Rite store for school shoes, I expect that they will show me whatever they have in stock in their size. If the sales clerk were that interested in making the sale, why would she not have shown me EVERY style available in my size until waiting til I was ready to walk out the door to bring out the new stuff

 

I see your point.

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On that latter point, I think it's generally a good thing that a sales person might be reticent about pointe shoes and so on, if s/he is not sure about your training and preparedness for pointe work.

 

In addition (and I'm not saying that Flora did this, but rather making a more general statement), pointe shoe stock is not really for customers to look at, and rarely do shoes have prices on them. Pointe shoes have so many variations that they are often organized very specifically, and no store owner would want that to even slightly be touched. In addition, many pointe shoes are fairly delicate, and are hard to keep pristinely clean. I don't even like good, trusted friends to touch my pointe shoes! I have never seen a store that would allow customers to touch shoes on the shelves, and if I did, I'd turn and walk out.

 

Are they really that uncomfortable? Or doesn it depend on your tolernce to foot discomforts? I used to wear some pretty high pumps for modeling class and endured swollen, calloused feet. So I'm not a stranger to feet pain. But is the fact that pointes are fitted so your toes touch the tip of the shoes and the fact that when you stand your foot expends a little have something to do with added pressure and pain that would make them so uncomfortable? Or does it more depend on how long your nails are? Maybe that girls toenails were too long? But some girls describe it as concrete.

 

To follow up on this and jimpickles response, I heartily disagree. I would state that it depends mostly on your technique. However, there are a lot of feet and muscular/skeletal constructions that are also not suitable for pointe work. For the most part, I actually feel very comfortable in pointe shoes. But pointe is not the end all and be all of ballet technique.

 

Flora, I find your enthusiasm infectious. However, I'd also encourage you not to put the cart before the horse! Focus on classes, good classes, and learning all you can from your teachers. In fact, that's what I'd say to any dancer, from the most beginning to the most advanced.

 

amen!

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