How to "Pancake" Your Pointe Shoes

(From left) Misty Copeland, Ebony Williams, and Ashley Murphy in pancaked shoes (photo by Nathan Sayers)

No two pairs of pointe shoes are the same, from their shanks to their boxes, their color to their shine. To make an array of shoes more uniform or to get them to a shade closer to your skin tone, dance teachers might ask that you "pancake" your pointe shoes before going onstage. But what does that entail, exactly? We're here to show you.


(Fun fact: Dancers used to cover their shoes with a thick base called pancake makeup, which is where the term "pancaking" came from.)

Materials needed:

  • a bottle of pink calamine lotion (if you're trying to match pink tights) or a bottle of liquid foundation that matches your skin tone
  • a wedge-shaped makeup sponge
  • a bowl or plate
  • a paper towel
  • pointe shoes

Preparation:

  • Fold the paper towel so that it's thick enough to absorb the calamine lotion/foundation without any seeping through.
  • Shake the bottle of calamine lotion or foundation to ensure it's well-mixed.
  • Pour about three seconds' worth of calamine lotion or foundation into your bowl or onto your plate. (Less is more! You don't want to over-do it, or your shoes will take forever to dry.)
  • If your pointe shoes are well-worn, tidy up any frayed satin by trimming it with scissors.

Steps:

  1. Dip one side of your makeup sponge into the calamine/foundation.
  2. Blot the makeup sponge on the paper towel to eliminate any excess calamine/foundation, which will prevent splotchy streaks on the satin.
  3. Hold your pointe shoe from the inside. With long and light sweeping strokes, begin to paint the shoe, starting with the top of the box.
  4. Work your way around the shoe, using the corners of the makeup sponge to reach satin that's creased or wrinkled. Be sure to paint the fabric that cases the drawstring, as well.
  5. To color the ribbons, lay each ribbon flat over your open palm, making sure that the outside of the ribbon is facing up. Using the same long and light sweeping motions, apply the calamine/foundation from one end to the other. (Don't forget the section of the ribbon closest to the shoe.)
  6. Hang the shoes by the heels to dry. For best results, let them dry for at least one hour before wearing them.
  7. Touch up the calamine/foundation as needed. Often, marks from the stage can be dulled by a fresh coat of color.
Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

Charla Genn, a New York City–based coach and dance rehabilitation specialist who teaches company class for Dance Theatre of Harlem, American Ballet Theatre and Ballet Hispánico, says that this causes its own problems.

"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending

Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.