In the Wings: Bloch & Queensland Ballet
LUCY GREEN, PRINCIPAL ARTIST & BLOCH AMBASSADOR
DAVID POWER, FIRST COMPANY ARTIST & BLOCH PROFESSIONAL
After almost a year of delays, Bloch joins Queensland Ballet dancers Lucy and David onstage to talk pointes, pliés and pandemic life.
Taking time out during the pandemic brought with it some invaluable lessons for Principal Artist Lucy Green. “Every show feels like a gift,” she tells me as she pulls out a fresh pair of her custom Bloch Serenade pointe shoes. “Like everyone in the dance world, I was devastated to face the cancellation of so many shows. But the sense of gratitude and passion for what we do has really only been strengthened by the pandemic.” That’s not to make light of this difficult time, she assures me. Queensland – and Australia in general – had been very fortunate to avoid the catastrophic events that played out around the world.
She unravels a pair of Bloch Elastoribs and I ask how she prepares her shoes for a show. “I don't tend to do much before I wear them. I sew Elastorib ribbons and elastic onto each shoe, then stomp on the box to flatten it. Most of my shoe prep happens as I wear them. I like to wear in a show pair of pointe shoes really well, so they feel super comfy and have really moulded to my feet. Oh, and sometimes I give them a bit of a beating on a concrete floor.” She laughs and seems genuinely thrilled to be on stage after a stop-start year. “I desperately missed moving to live music,” she says as we get onto the topic of lockdown. She looks around the vast stage on which we are shooting today, and a technician tweaks the stage lights to a moody hue. “I missed travelling through space, connecting with other dancers, and, of course, performing. The sense of joy and relief when we returned to the studios – and this stage – was insane.”
It’s a sentiment shared by fellow dancer and Bloch Professional David Power. “Our first performance back on stage after the long lockdown felt like the first time I ever performed.” David is Brisbane-born, and has spent his life watching performances on the Playhouse Stage, which he considers his second home – third, actually, after the studio. But it was this third home of which he was deprived for much of 2020. “The thrill of applause and the exhilaration of feeling the nerves in the wings felt so new and special again. It made me reflect on what our role is as performers in society. It felt like a huge honor to be able to give audiences the relief of stepping away from the craziness of their lives, it gave such meaning and weight to our work. Including you guys.” He gestures to the Bloch team.
Bloch’s relationship with Queensland Ballet spans back to its inception some 60 years ago. And it’s on this stage – in these wings – that Bloch shoes are prepped to be performance-ready, night after night.
Lucy wears L57882 Bloch Cosmo Cap Sleeve Leotard and Custom Bloch Serenade Pointe Shoes.
“Bloch’s commitment to traditional handcrafted design and artistic integrity mirrors our own dedication to always pursue the best. Shoes are perhaps one of the most important tools in a dancers’ career. They are integral to performance and even impact on career longevity.”
– Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet
Lucy wears a bespoke Bloch tutu that almost swallows her whole as she sits for a series of portraits atop a trunk. The Bloch and Queensland Ballet logos are stencilled on in homage to the partnership. “Can you see my shoes?” she calls out as she reaches to expose her custom Serenades. I take a make-up touch-up to find out more about the magical satin shoes on her feet. “They’ve had multiple incarnations before I reached my current style.” She closes her eyes as a mist of hairspray secures her bun. “As I've matured as a dancer, my feet and technique have changed, and I've found myself needing different things from my shoes.” She gives a smile to Sallyanne Parkes, Bloch’s professional pointe shoe fitter, who stands side-stage. “Fortunately Bloch has accommodated all my requests over the years beautifully! My current custom Serenades have a stronger shank that’s cut at ¾ length, a lower vamp with less tapering than regular Serenades, and are cut lower around the heel and sides of the shoe.”
As I return to the wings and the shoot continues, said Sallyanne fills me in on why each modification is important: “The ¾ shank length allows the foot to easily create that perfect “L” shape and her lower vamp gives her foot the opportunity to pointe without restriction,” she says without a beat, and with the confidence only someone with over 27 years fitting pointe shoes can deliver. “Could make a couple of tweaks.” She takes down a note, and with it I learn that a pointe shoe journey is just that – and not a final destination.
David Power appears from side-stage, he’s stretching and perfecting his Bloch Pumps. I sidestep in his direction to find out how it feels waiting to go on stage, and if he gets nervous at all. “I would be concerned if I wasn’t nervous. Nerves aren’t something to be afraid of. I always find them comforting because I think being nervous and being excited are very similar feelings, and excitement is a positive feeling!” He’s wise for his twenty-something years. David studied at The Australian Ballet School before launching his career with Queensland Ballet as a Jette Parker Young Artist – he’s now First Company Artist just six years on.
He makes markings in the air as he watches the stage fill with fog. I ask him about it, assuming he’s going over choreography, but I couldn’t be more wrong. “The very last thing I do before going on stage is draw a small “XO” in the air in front of me or on my leg, it grounds me and keeps me in the present. It reminds me of all the support and love I have in my life.”
Even after just a short time with David, I can see what a spiritual man he is. I ask him what advice he’d give to his younger self. He answers after a thoughtful pause: “Ballet can be difficult for a boy, but know that your pursuit in this artform will come with it huge rewards and connections you will cherish every day.” He nods with a comfortable satisfaction.
“My pre-professional training at The Australian Ballet School was paramount in shaping the dancer I am today.” He goes on. “I learnt invaluable information about ballet, as well as what kind of dancer I aspired to be. It also gave me a very important opportunity to be surrounded by like-minded people with common interests and goals.”
Lucy hops down from the trunk, releasing her feet from her shoes for a costume change. She almost laughs as I ask how long a pair of pointe shoes lasts. “I mean, it depends on my workload and the repertoire at the time. At the moment, I'm rehearsing Aurora and Bluebird for Greg Horsman’s The Sleeping Beauty, and I probably go through two to four pairs a week.” I look around and Sallyanne nods. “I'm a classic shoe hoarder though! I hate to throw away shoes. I've got a huge pile of near-dead shoes in my dressing room that I pull out when I need really broken-in shoes, or want to work on foot strength in class.” A broken-in shoe allows the dancer to articulate each intrinsic muscle, facilitating foot strengthening exercises.
Lucy estimates that she goes through 100 pairs of pointe shoes a year – each and every one hand-crafted by Bloch. It’s this close relationship with Bloch and the dancer that inspired a unique partnership opportunity, seeing Bloch continue its title of Official Pointe Shoe Partner to Queensland Ballet – a title it treasures as much as the dancers who wear their shoes.