Day One of 3-Day-Quote Blog Challenge

“The Marquis de Sade invented pointe shoes.”

–Diane Lauridsen, Lauridsen Ballet Centre, Torrance, Calif.

Well, of course the Marquis de Sade invented pointe shoes. Every ballet dancer who has danced on pointe knows this. Through personal experience taking ballet class as an adult for many years, I know this.  Besides, our ballet teacher, a master teacher, Diane Lauridsen, artistic director of the Lauridsen Ballet Centre/South Bay Ballet, told us this.

I proffer this fascinating perceived fact because Susan Scott of Garden of Eden Blog nominated me to take part in a Three Day Quote Challenge, whereby each day, on three consecutive days, I pick a quote, from a person famous or not, and say a little bit about it.  Thank you, Susan.  I am honored you selected me.

Susan quoted  Anna Pavlova: When I was a small child … I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights for one brief moment, but soon flits away.

Since Anna Pavlova inspired me to study ballet, I decided I must write a spinoff, as it were, of Pavlova’s articulation.

It is said Pavlova put ball bearings in her shoes to create the illusion during bourées that she was gliding across stage. Dancing in pointe shoes with ball bearings in the toes would have the dancer portray the tortured swan rather than a dying one, I should think. Pointe shoes (or toe shoes) are handmade, commonly from satin with a soft leather sole. At the front tip of the shoe, housing the toes, is the box, typically constructed of layers of material hardened with glue. As you might imagine, dancing across the ballet studio floor, which has become suddenly vast, or across the stage in a pair of these would abrade your toes, rendering it very difficult to look like a butterfly when all you want to do is grimace and flop down, the forlorn swan. Indeed, dancers wrap their individual toes in adhesive tape to prevent blisters and bunions, what little good that does. Dancers prefer their shoes old and soft, therefore, wearing them until the satin frays and the shoe completely breaks down. Seasoned dancers resort to all sorts of techniques to soften a new pair of pointe shoes, such as repeatedly bending and kneading them and slamming them in a doorjamb.

Happiness is the process of fulfilling one’s passion for dance. Happiness is receiving constant corrections from your ballet teacher and striving to reach perfection. And maybe for a moment you do; and then it flits away. You know you will never achieve absolute perfection; but with dedication and discipline, you diligently strive after it, gradually improving amid the setbacks.

A dancer must work regularly (ideally taking class five or six days a week) for two years before gaining the strength to go on pointe. Your feet must be strong (no, not because you’re wearing socks you forgot to wash) and you must have the core strength to lift yourself up and off your toes. A child should not be put into pointe shoes until she is 10. Before that age, her bones are too soft, still unformed. To prevent injury, it is essential you research and find a genuinely good teacher.

Not every female who dances on pointe is a ballerina. The term arises from reverence for a  high level of achievement, though not gymnastics in toe shoes but rather possession of a certain je ne sais quoi, “the perfume of her inflections, the projection of a larger spirit or deeper spirituality,” as dance critic Laura Jacobs put it in Pointe Magazine.

In today’s terms, Pavlova created an aura around herself as a brand — vis-à-vis Lady Gaga. Does Pavlova use ball bearings in this two minute film of her dancing “The Dying Swan”?  I doubt it. In her bourées she keeps her feet close together and she’s just quick. She gives the illusion of the ethereal.

“Some of her dances look like improvisations. She looked as though the music was playing and she just got up and danced. She knew how to project magic about her,” said the late British ballet dancer and choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, in conversation with Natalia Markarova, who achieved prima ballerina status in the 1960s, in this seven minute YouTube video.

So, to rise to inhabit the apparently effortless ethereal spirit, you must be committed to years of practice, years of barre work and dancing across the ballet studio floor, appearing often less like a butterfly, rather more like a mushroom, or as our teacher, Diane, pointed out, “You all look like hawks.”

Read more about ballet training and finding a good teacher at my Carol Child byline portfolio.

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Over the three years I have known Susan Scott, having met her on a LinkedIn writers caregivers group, she has become a good friend, wise, insightful, compassionate and always supportive.  She is author of the book In Praise of Lilith, Eve & the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, which you can purchase on Amazon simply by clicking on the icon in the left sidebar of my blog.

In turn, I am pleased to nominate my good friend T.J. Banks and two new friends, Sara C. Snider and Celine Jeanjean, three delightful and accomplished authors:

T.J. Banks – Sketch People

Sara C. Snider – Sara C. Snider

Celine Jeanjean – Down the Rabbit Hole

–Samantha Mozart

9 Responses to Day One of 3-Day-Quote Blog Challenge

  1. Pat Garcia says:

    Good Morning My Dear,
    Before I begin to work on my backlog, I thought I would sit back and relax by reading your day one of the 3 Day Quote Challenge, and I am glad I did. Your first day has given me strength. What a wonderful article on Pavlova. The strength of her character, her endurance and her perseverance comes through.
    What impressed me most was that she realised that it was a constant practice, constant working to make herself better in what she did, and she did excel in so many ways. She was the number one because of what she endured. She stayed focused and when she danced, it was an experience that touched the hearts of everyone. She drew them into her world.
    Seeing Pavlova and reading about her in this article gives me the strength to keep on writing. To be the very best writer that I can be in whatever I write.
    Thank you so much for going into detail about the great woman whose footprints left a great mark in the world.


    • sammozart says:

      Yes, Pavlova inspires, Patricia. She created an aura around herself, a brand. She used to arrive at events, where her fans were waiting outside, in an automobile with the interior lit, and then step out with a grand flourish. Frederick Ashton, who met her, tells that story in the video here, if you haven’t watched it.

      Studying ballet was hard work, but fun, and felt good: you have to feel a passion for it. I would arrive at class sometimes feeling like a slug and leave feeling exhilarated. I think it’s that way with anything you seriously enter into in life; it grabs you spontaneously with a passion and you can’t let go.


      • Pat Garcia says:


        Thank you for mentioning the other 3 short cuts. I have just seen the interview about her. It is an in depth look at the woman Pavlova. To think that he thought she was ugly when he first saw her and then she started dancing and drew him into her world. She was indeed an extraordinary ballerina. She was in a class of her own.


  2. How beautiful and yet fascinating. Ballet is an interesting art, of which I know very little. But the amount of discipline that goes into it is quite mind boggling. And I had no idea one must possess that special, ethereal “something” to even be considered a ballerina. Thank you for the insight.

    And thank you for the nomination! I will have to give this one some thought and see if I can find some interesting quotes. We’ll see. 😉

    • sammozart says:

      Yes, ballet might appeal to your ethereal storytelling side, Sara. The discipline of ballet practice arises out of a deep passion for the dance. Dancing ballet always made me feel spiritually high, even when I thought my leg would fall off when I had to do 16 more high kicks.

      As for the quotes, I’ll bet your characters, Oswald, for example (I love the name), could come up with some quotes. 🙂 No pressure, though.

  3. Susan Scott says:

    This took me back Samantha to the years that I was a ballet student! Yes the older the pointe shoes the better. Not sure if I resorted to slamming them in doors to soften, maybe jumping on them. Can you believe that Dulcie Howes the doyen of ballet in Cape Town recommended me to the Royal School of Ballet London? Not on so far as my father was concerned … finish your schooling first. By which time I had grown out of my shell a fair bit … and discovered the opposite sex!

    The clip was magical thank you and I’ll follow up on the Markarova interview when time permits. Yes, dedication to one’s craft pays no matter how difficult and this moments of happiness in achieving a little more are worth the effort.

    Thank you! And also for acknowledging me dear friend.

    • sammozart says:

      There is a kinship dancers share, Susan; we are of a particular thought group and sensibility. This adds sense to your and my friendship. To be recommended to the Royal School of Ballet by a prima ballerina assoluta is quite an honor. I could’ve watched you dance in great ballets. Wow. My daughter and a friend who took class with us were both told they could become professionals if they so chose. They chose not to — my daughter because she wanted a more rounded life and our friend because she opted to become a mathematician. She taught university math and then became a lawyer. She plays piano, as you do, and now shows Dobermans, lives on a farm in upstate N.Y.

      My mother gave me lessons when I was 8-10 years old. I saw those older girls on pointe and thought that’s what I naturally should do. But, my mother stopped my lessons, so I didn’t go back until I was 30. Dancing on pointe was never easy for me, though I loved it, in my 30s and 40s. Nevertheless, I have a deep passion for ballet — even if it’s just taking class.


  4. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Quite inspiring! Ballet obviously was an important part of your life. It is such a graceful dance. I do admire people who can do it! Thank you for the education.

    • sammozart says:

      Two and a half hours a day, six days, sometimes seven, a week; yes it was important, Gwynn, and it still is. Kellie and I have a family of friends from those days, and whenever I watch a ballet my muscles are tired at the end from moving them with the dancers, even from my chair, throughout the performance. It comes automatically to move with the dancers, lifting, elongating, turning….