Q&A with Jessica Fyfe
Bloch catches up with Jessica Fyfe, Soloist with Stuttgart Ballet to learn all about her pointe shoe journey - from her very first pointe shoe fitting right through to her current pair of custom Bloch Heritage!
Mayerling, Jessica Fyfe and David Moore © Stuttgarter Ballett
Born in Brisbane Jessica undertook her initial ballet training at the Marie Walton Dance Academy in Newcastle. In 2000 she continued her ballet education at the Australian Ballet School, before joining The Australian Ballet company in 2010. Jessica danced as a Choryphee with The Australian Ballet until 2015 and during this time she danced solo roles in choreographies by David McAllister, Peter Wright and John Cranko.
In February 2016 Jessica Fyfe joined the Stuttgart Ballet as Demi Soloist. In the 2019/20 season she was promoted to Soloist.
Do you remember your first pointe shoe fitting? Tell us a little bit about your experience.
Yes, I remember it very fondly! I was fitted for a pair of size 2.5 Bloch Serenade Strong that I slept in for a week after my fitting, earning my first bleeding blister… I was so proud!
Finding the right pointe shoe is a very unique journey for each dancer and is often an on-going process. How long did it take you to find your perfect fit?
It is a very personal process and for me it began with my first pair at the age of 10 and continued right through to my 4th year with The Australian Ballet Company. I have been lucky enough, with the expert help of Bloch, to create my perfect pointe shoe and I still love and wear them today. They are my custom Bloch Heritage!
How have your pointe shoe requirements changed as you have progressed throughout your career?
My needs have changed a lot in some areas throughout my career, but in other areas they have remained the same. For example, when I first began learning pointe work as a student, I needed stronger shoes to support my young bones and weaker muscles. As I developed and grew stronger, I needed much less support and am now wearing a softer shoe. Although this is dependent on the style of repertoire and the workload I am experiencing at that time. I quite often rotate between 6 pairs of pointe shoes in one rehearsal day and 2 pairs during a performance.
Despite these changes I have always liked my pointe shoes streamlined, silent, supple and with great feel for the floor.
La fille mal gardée, Jessica Fyfe and Louis Stiens © Stuttgarter Ballett
What features do you look for in a pointe shoe?
Aesthetically, I look for a shoe that hugs my arch and tapers at the toe to make my leg line long and my foot work as streamlined and effortless as possible. I do not like my shoes to look as though I am wearing big shiny blocks on the end of my legs, as I believe it detracts from my work.
Structurally, I look for a box and vamp that is well suited to the shape of my foot, so that I can work well without being cramped or too free. I also check that the break of the arch in the sole of the shoe matches that of my foot. If they don't match up it can be quite uncomfortable and does not accentuate my natural arch.
Lastly, the shoe’s strength needs to be enough to give support, while also allowing for manipulation by the strength of my feet. This makes my jump landings, releves and rises so much smoother.
How do you customise/break in your shoes?
I do a number of things. Firstly I stand on the box with my heel to flatten it slightly. I also pull the top nail in the shank out, to allow the shank to bend with the line of my arch. I then try the pair on to decide which shoe is best for my left and right foot. Next, I shave off the excess leather on the sole of the shoe with a stanley knife. Then I sew on my ribbons (I use Bloch Elastoribs) which I sew all the way to the inside bottom of the shoe at the location of my arch, so that when I tie the shoe it really hugs my foot. I also sew an invisible elastic to the heel. To finish, I darn a big circle around the toe cap to help keep the shape of the toe. And voila! The entire process takes roughly an hour per pair.
What padding do you use?
I have used a few different types over the years but have settled on pure cotton wool. I use it in both round pad form or as cotton balls. I find that being cotton it absorbs most of the sweat so that my toes can stay dry and clean. It is important to look after your feet, as infected blisters can develop very easily. At the end of every day I throw out the old cotton I have used and replace it with fresh cotton in the morning, keeping my toes dry, clean and healthy. I find that cotton allows me to be able to feel the floor - which I like, as it is not too thick or bulky and you can use it only where you need it.
On average, how many pairs of pointe shoes do you use per season?
Last season I saved all of them! I wanted to have an idea of the number I go through in a season. It was around 80 pairs of pointe shoes. Every week I use around 10 pairs, all at different stages of wear. I rotate between them and when one pair is finished I add a new pair to the row and continue on.
What are your must-have pointe shoe accessories?
- The Bloch Elastoribs…they are fantastic!
- A bag of pure cotton balls
- A strong Stanley knife
- A large strong needle and thick darning thread
- Super glue
What do you love about your Bloch shoes?
I love how they feel on my feet; perfectly moulded and comfortable. And yes, they really are comfortable! They work with me, and feel as though they are part of my own body, which makes dancing in them seem effortless.
What advice can you give young dancers about finding their perfect pointe shoes?
Be persistent. Ask questions and learn everything you can about pointe shoes, your feet and your strengths and weaknesses. Only then will you know exactly what you need from your shoe and how to design and alter them to achieve your own perfect pointe shoe.
Headshot: Jessica Fyfe photographed by Carlos Quezada