In Bestpointe.com pointe shoes are our passion! Behind each order there is a personal story of the person that purchases a pair of pointe shoes and we are really fascinated to find out these stories! How did it all started with ballet? What does it mean for you? What would you do for it? Some stories inspire us a lot to continue doing what we love, that's why we want to share them with you! Dancers, you are the epicentre of our everyday life and we are so thankful for your trust and sharing!
Today's touching story is about Olivier Tourchon, a very kind, natural and co-operative customer of ours, who firstly contacted us for purchasing a pair of the very first male pointe shoes, "Rudolf" by Siberian Swan. Let's find out his interview:
1. Tell us a few words about you... what do you do "by day"?
My name is Olivier, I was born near Paris, France, in 1976. I have always been attracted by living art things, at a point that I wanted, when a child, to become a stage lighting operator. Life made me change my mind, could not afford the requested school … Anyway, what comes now is my story, a guy in ballet story!
Aside from ballet, that I just take as a hobby, I am a computer engineer, specialized in data storage solutions. You know, those huge boxes filled with thousands of hard disks and costing thousands of US$, where companies like google or facebook can store their data. This is my main job. I also work as a mystery shopper and a tourism auditor. Oh and I am married to beautiful Jessica and have a 17 years old girl. Jessica is a school kids keeper and Meline still goes to school.
2. What is your personal story inside dance and especially ballet? What does ballet mean for you? Which is your relationship (professional, amateur) with dance?
I have always seen ballet as a "for normal people" hobby. I could only imagine ballet dancers (whether they are boys or girls) as slim and sport addict. As a kid - and until quite recently - I was overweight. With miracles and efforts, I lost a lot of weight 5 years ago, and reached the "normal side". One of my first "new slim guy" thing was to go and meet a ballet teacher, tell her my story and asking if she would accept me as a pupil ... and she did accept me ;-)
Now, I take ballet as an amateur hobby, not having any professionnal aim nor goal, just wanna have fun, nothing particular actually.
Once again, ballet was, for my entire life, an unreachable dream. Something I was not made for. And being able to "reach" (partially off course) this aim was a real reward of efforts and all the stress I had lived with this weight loss. I know I will never be as good or as skilled as a ballet guy who started at the age of 11 may be, but you can not imagine how proud it can make me to say "ok, I am in the middle of the ballet room, now I must do something and I must try to do it well".
3. Can you recall your first pointe shoe class? Was there a big difference between your expectations and the reality?
Oh yes, I do remember it. I was scared as hell. Me, a guy, and old fat guy, was reaching the highest symbol of ballet, probably what symbolize grace and lightness in ballet, pointe dancing. Well, in my case, "pointe wearing", I was and still am far far far from being able to say that I "dance" on pointe, I may say "I move on my toe" would better define what I do ;-)
Difference between expectation and reality is cruel and bloody ... one can not imagine how painful it can be to stand on the toe of feet. Whoever has ever lost a toenail and needs to walk afterwhile just understand 10 % of the pain a dancer can feel when dancing en pointe. And not only does this pain occur on the toe, it is also on the heel, the ankle, ... well ... pretty everywhere actually !!
The main difficulty, really, was "material" to me. How can I, as a 43 years old guy, step into a ballet shop and ask for a pair of pointe shoes ? I needed a good amount of courage, and maybe a bit of madness to do it.
I took my courage with my both feet and I did it. And I was pretty surprised. The seller I met, a woman, was more open minded than I could imagine she would be. I explained her that I wanted to do it, my path and my aim, who my school teacher was and so on. This time, we only discussed, she looked at my feet and, with a bit of despair in her voice, she told me "This is a challenge, I will try to find a pair at your size". She explained that Bloch made the "Serenade" pointe shoes, and those shoes may be available in my size. "I will call you for a fitting session" she told me. And she intelligently added "We will do it an evening, post store closure, so that we will not be disturbed by teenagers looking at you. I wonder if she understood or not how "shy" I was, but she impressed me with such a sense of understanding and empathy.
4. What does ballet looks like in your country? Is it popular among kids / adults?
Some say that Ballet was invented in France. I am not a history specialist, but this is what I learnt at school. They taught us that Louis XIV invented it at Versailles, where his castle is. So we can say that we invented it ... to have it reinvented again and again by other cultures and other nations in the world. If many little girls do take ballet at their very young age (not a kid can take proper ballet lesson before the age of 5 due to the law in France), they will often do it because of their mum's pressure, as an exhortatory to the frustration of the mother not to have been able to take dance classes when she was a kid. Ballet is seen as a "for rich" hobby, as well as tennis or horse polo can be. And in some points, I think it is true. If a leotard or a pair of tights can be bought for less than 20 €, a pair of pointe shoes will soon be a question of 100 € ... a lot of money for "middle class" families.
In my area (Brittany, western of France) we have a surprising huge number of ballet schools ; within a 20 kms radius, I can count ... 25 different ballet school ; if they work, they have business, at no doubt, and this is a good signal for the ballet & leisures industry !
5. Which was your favorite moment "on pointe"? Was it in a class, or a photo shoot, or a performance...?
The first time I showed up wearing pointe shoes to the girls in my ballet class was really disturbing. I felt like I was not in my place, yet felt proud to step in to the "real world of dancers". And it occurs again and again every time I show up with my shoes at feet, whether it is at school, during showcases or when I go in store to buy new shoes, I still feels a bit shy and impressed by girls in the store, they "officially" wear those shoes, while I am just not credible, not in my place. Fun fact, when she left the store where I bought my shoes, the lady I talked about previously introduced me to the girl who took her position, just to reassure her that it was "normal if he (I) came and buy pointe shoes, no need to worry". I reckon this will remain for my whole life, I am not at my "place" in Ballet, neither am I in pointe shoes I guess !
6. Which is the most difficult thing about your pointe shoes? (sewing ribbons, pain, standing on full pointe or?...)
Standing on full pointe has always been the hardest thing in pointe shoes, and it remains something I need to think about, fully extended knees, make thighs hard and push the floor with all toes, not only the big one. Oh ... I forgot to talk about the pain. It is not pleasant, off course, and every dancer has his (her) "this is the best thing to do" secret to get rid of this pain. I use toe pads (silicon ones) and toe covers to solve - partially - this issue. I do have very wide feet, and it is pretty tricky to find wide enough pointe shoes ... bacause I have a bunion on my big left foot toe :-/
7. What do pointe shoes mean for you?
Pointe shoes are the absolute definition of Ballet ; Grace and lightness, ease emphasized to the eye of the audience. This is what I dreamt of being for my whole life, and my path made me touch this truth from the tip of a finger. Pointe shoes are seen as a torture item - and I think they are in some points - so we, dancers, may like being in pain actually ??
8. When a pair of pointe shoes gets broken, what do you do to it? Do you throw it away or keep them all?
I do keep them all, they are in my drawer, with their birth and death dates written in them ... sort of my progress symbol. And pain symbols, they all have blood marks within !
9. We'd love to find out what was your experience with the online pointe shoe fitting... What was it that made you look for a an online service like ours? How did you find us?
I have been looking for my pair of pointe shoes for a while. Not that my previous shoes experts were not skilled or knowledgeable enough, just that I do have very wide feet and I am a man, and I reckon that we men have different needs and requirements than women can have. This is what attracted me first in your service ; you know how to assist men in the choice of their pointe shoes.
Next, the ease of “online” service is that there is no risk of anyone being surprised, shocked or - worst - jibe me because I am not the “normal” ballet dancer size, nor sex. I am facing professionals who will behave as such and this is what I want.
Selection flowed in a natural way … Which professional may be able to help me have “my” pair of pointe shoes and allow me to tell things with no need to whisper or anything ? Siberian Swan European Team !
10. How would you describe our service and how did it help you with your problem?
Easy and straightforward … Those are the words that come to my mind. I just had to send a bunch of photos, some details about my ballet life … et voilà. No need to never ending discussion and questions, you know what you sell, you know your market and competitors and are able to adapt what you sell to what the customer needs. What else may be needed ?
Oh … last thing ! Never was I jibed or mocked. I am a customer, am treated as such with respect. This never went to cold discussion, I would say it was the opposite. Not only could I open my ballet things to your team, but also my life and my path, so that you know much about me and this has probably helped define the pair of shoes I need !
11. Now, a question by Olivier for Himself!…
What about the cliché? Taking into account ballet is seen as a girly dance, what about pointe shoes? Why take pointe shoes when you are a man?
In common imagination, Ballet is for women - young women - and only the most ethereal among of them are able to go on pointe.
This is what I call the “official” point of view ; Behind the curtain, the meaning is different. Women are the ones who get the “I need this man to save me” or “I need the prince to come and fight the dragon to save the so light woman I am”. In other words, being a ballerina means that you are fragile and unable to fight. Moreover, whenever the ballerina wears pointe shoes, she is seen as a cute-and-tiny-made-of-crystal-thing, light, thin and weightless, unable to save herself off of any danger.
This way I fight whenever I take ballet classes and wear pointe shoes. We, men, are not only the fighters and the ones that will save women's life. We are also able to look weightless and be a part of pain and physical hard work. There are no physical or physiological reasons to make only women "suffer" en pointe. We, men, have to share pain and show our ballet companions, either they do not need to be en pointe to perform and be beautiful or be en pointe as well.
We live in year 2019, and each change we, as individuals, make for women and the way they are seen all over the world (whether it concerns their pointe shoes, the equality in work or their freedom to have children if and when they want to have children) is a grand jeté to a safer world. A world in which no one will be disregarded due to their religion, sex, sexual orientation, … but just be seen as a member of the common community.
12. Last word ?
Thank you so much Siberian Swan team. I am looking forward to receiving my shoes and wear them. I am pretty sure I will live something really different!
"This is definitely what I love the most after sport... a sauna session!"