Christmas had taken a lot of out me. Trying to accommodate to Kaitzer and the girls’ schedules, not to mention having to rescue Charlie, was more than I could handle. All I wanted to do on Jan. 2 was watch football.
About a month prior, Simone became ecstatic about the promise of going “en pointe” and purchasing her first ballet pointe shoes. Her excitement increased exponentially and reached a crescendo that morning.
Just as I was leaving for a cup of tea and to do some writing, Simone exclaimed, “Daddy! You wanna come with us?”
“Joe! That’s a great idea,” Kaitzer remarked.
I was outflanked; not even the heavy guns could save me.
But I didn’t get it. What’s the big schmeal about purchasing a pair of pointe shoes? Would we make such a fuss if she were getting bowling shoes?
Nevertheless I went, and forced a smile.
Once we arrived at Pas de Deux in Agoura, I realized something special was happening. There were five girls: Quincy, Jasmine, Tessa, Stephanie, Simone — and their mothers. Also present were two fitting specialists, Revolution’s ballet director Rebecca Mala, aka Miss Becca; Simone’s uncle Raffi; and me.
Cameras continually flashed, capturing the euphoric children and documenting the pageantry of finding the perfect pointe shoe. The expressions on the mothers’ faces were telling signs that defined the significance of the moment.
The girls were crossing the Rubicon. They had reached a point of no return similar to Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon River in 49 BC to seize power in Rome. They were making the transition toward a new level of dance. When a girl goes en pointe, she no longer dances; she becomes a dancer.
Since both Kaitzer and Raffi were dancers, I had a million questions for them. Raffi explained that dancing en pointe creates an ethereal illusion as though the dancer is lighter than air, floating above ground. They appear sylph-like, assuming the movement and persona of mythological beings. The world of ballet is illusionary; it transcends the metaphysical as dancers bring mythology to life in such classics as “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Cinderella.” Dancing en pointe is the animation of the surreal.
“Illusions of flight and movement by dancers defy the laws of physics,” Raffi said. “Dancing en pointe makes the unnatural appear natural.”
There was laughter, conversation, and movement as the girls sat together adjusting, stretching and searching for comfort in their pointe shoes. Kaitzer noted that such is the case when dancers are preparing for class. From the waist up, the girls were jovial as they bonded and experienced the moment. However, from the waist down, they struggled and kicked, trying to manipulate both foot and shoe. Degas’ famous portraits of dancers depict this ritual.
Finding the perfect shoe is a dance. Toe pads, jell pads, toe box, elastic band, soft shank, hard shank, ribbons, and assorted brands like Bloch, Grishko, Gamba and Capezio needed the discerning attention of Miss Becca. With a surgeon’s eye, her analysis was all-encompassing.
After the meticulous scrutiny of everyone present, the miraculous moment arrived. Wearing their new pointe shoes, the girls sauntered to the ballet bar. They saw their reflection in the mirror, rose en pointe, and beamed with ecstasy.
Only Degas could have captured the moment. And to think I would have missed this.
This was a special moment in the lives of the children. They had crossed the Rubicon; there’d be no going back. They were now dancers and I could only imagine where that could take them.
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.