A professional ballet dancer is definitely not a traditional job. All of us have some strange things in our bags that most non-dancers wouldn’t understand. I would love to try and explain a few things as well as help out any young dancers looking for something new to try.
I always carry a pair of socks to wear during barre so that I am able to really use the floor. I usually start class wearing socks, change into ballet flats toward the end of barre, then switch into pointe shoes for center, or I might wear flat shoes for the whole class, it all depends on how tired my feet and ankles are from the day before. We start our morning technique class wearing plenty of layers to help warm up our muscles and then take off pieces when we start to sweat. I like to wear trash bag shorts- made of a plastic material that resembles a trash bag (sounds stylish huh?) to keep my hips warm, generally with a pair of legwarmers on my lower legs. I always carry a theraband so that I can do foot and ankle strengthening exercises, a tennis ball to roll out the muscles in my feet and calves, band-aids because I always scrape the top of my foot somehow, hair pins and a sewing kit for when I need to sew new pointe shoes (I’ve got it down to a science, my record is 15 minutes!)
Inside our pointe shoes most of us wear toepads specially made by dancewear companies to add a layer of fluff inside the hard shoes that hold us up. When I first started dancing “en pointe” I wore toepads made of actual lamb’s wool. Since then I have tried just about everything there is in order to make standing on my toes feel like dancing through the clouds. I have gone through fazes of wearing thick gel (which made my toes go to sleep) or folding paper towels over my toes (to REALLY feel the floor) before I found what I wear now, the Bloch Pro-Pad, which is a light layer of gel with fabric over it on the tops of my toes and just a thin layer of fabric underneath. I get most of my pointe shoe accessories at Footlights Dance Store where I work as a pointe shoe fitter.
I have developed callused skin on most of my toes but if I have a long rehearsal I will tape my toes to prevent blisters. I use blue painters tape which I’ll wrap twice around my big toe and my pinky toe, this usually get me through a few hours of dancing before I need to refresh my tape. I use Jet Glue- a super liquid glue, to harden the ends of my pointe shoes and make them last longer. I wear new pointe shoes one time to break them in and then drip in a layer of glue each time I wear them so that they last as long as possible. Be extremely careful when you carry Jet Glue because it can spill easily and will harden anything it comes in contact with, I’ve seen it ruin dance bags, flat shoes and the marley flooring they use in most dance studios.
I have come to realize that most people don’t understand exactly how ballerinas stand on their toes (it’s all strength) or the amount of time it takes to find your “perfect” pointe shoes (years). Finding what works for you is all about trial and error, I hope you have more successes than errors and I hope that hearing a bit about my routine has given you some insight into what being a professional dancer is really like.