Q&A with Melissa McCabe
Bloch catches up with Melissa McCabe, Demi-Soloist with the West Australian 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 Sonata!
Do you remember your first pointe shoe fitting? Tell us a little bit about your experience.
Yes, I absolutely do remember my first pointe shoe fitting! Such a great, defining moment as a young aspiring dancer.
It was at the Bloch store in the Strand Arcade, Sydney. Sandie and Sallyanne were so incredibly helpful and full of knowledge, guiding me through different styles to ultimately find the perfect shoe. In the end we chose the Serenade in a size 11! I remember clutching my white Bloch bag with my new pointe shoes so tightly, all the way back to the studio to try them on again and show my teacher. I still remember putting them on, holding the barre, beaming from ear to ear!
I also may have started hopping en pointe and my teacher nearly died! But luckily, they fitted like a glove so I was ok! To this day hopping en pointe is my most favourite thing to do - some things never change.
Finding the right pointe shoe is a very unique journey for each dancer and is often an ongoing process. How long did it take you to find your perfect fit?
Absolutely! You are constantly learning new tips and tricks, and your feet are always changing. I only recently got a new trial shoe sent to me after Sallyanne tweaked the vamp size for me. So, after 18 years of dancing professionally in my custom shoes, I'm still changing things here and there - it's never too late to find your perfect shoe. You grow and change as a dancer, so it’s important to constantly find new ways to improve and perfect your pointe shoes, as they are the tools of our trade!
You mention that the vamp has been tweaked recently. Have any other pointe shoe requirements changed as you progressed throughout your career?
The actual requirements haven't changed a great deal as I have always liked a soft, supple shank to really work my feet and give them the best aesthetic line I can. I wasn't born with perfect ballerina feet, so I'm constantly tweaking little things here and there to achieve the ultimate fit and streamlined aesthetic. The longer vamp adjustment we recently made to my shoes has really helped to elongate my feet and to improve my line.
What features do you look for in a pointe shoe?
A pointe shoe that looks and fits like a glove on your foot! A pointe shoe shouldn’t look too bulky or unflattering. They should seamlessly blend in with the line of your leg and of course be as comfortable as possible!
How do you customise/break in your shoes?
I cut off the satin at the platform of my shoes with a little stanley knife so I don't slip. I have tried darning, but it doesn't suit my feet.
I also cut out half the shank, to give my feet the best possible line and shave the outer sole of the shoe back so that I feel more grounded.
What padding do you use?
Haha... I use Chux wipes and one toe protector for the second toe on my left foot, as it's longer than my big toe!
On average how many pairs of pointe shoes do you use per season?
It really depends on what repertoire we are performing. However, I do like working in a softer shoe!
What are your must-have pointe shoe accessories?
The fantastic Bloch Elastoribs, as they have the elastic inserts! They are so convenient and help relieve any irritation in my Achilles and ankles as I like to tie my ribbons super tight! I also love the cute Bloch sewing kit, it has all the essentials and I just adore the tin.
What do you love about your Bloch shoes?
I love EVERYTHING about them!
I have tried a few different brands throughout my career, but none have lasted more than a day. I always came back to my custom Bloch, as they feel like home to me. I put them on and I instantly feel confident, knowing that they support me in all the right places.
I find them to be not only incredibly comfortable, but they also feel a part of me when I move. They are so lightweight, that when I run or jump on stage you can't hear my shoes which I love!
What advice can you give young dancers about finding their perfect pointe shoes?
It's all about trial and error and learning about things you like and don't like along the way. You WILL find your perfect shoe.
You will always be finding new ways to adapt your shoes to suit your needs. So hang in there! It’s actually a fun journey to be on. I’ve loved the guidance and support from other dancers, teachers as well as Sallyanne from Bloch, who makes regular visits to Perth to help all of us to find our ultimate shoe.