Offstage, Joffrey dancers step out in boots, heels

August 18, 2013
Chicago Sun-Times
Hedy Weiss


Feet, don’t fail me now. That is surely the clarion call of every dancer, but especially the women of the Joffrey Ballet, who spend most of their working hours in pointe shoes, and whose feet are a matter of life and breath.
So what do these thoroughbred artists wear when pounding the pothole-ridden streets of Chicago, negotiating the ups and downs of public transportation, and preparing for their Chicago Dancing Festival performances this week at the Auditorium Theatre and in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion?

You might be surprised. Only rarely is it a safe little pair of ballet flats like those worn by so many non-dancers these days. Impact-softening sneakers also are only a sometime thing. Comfort is important, but boots and wedges — and yes, heels — often win out. Fashion is a consideration. Here are what four women of the Joffrey company had to say about off-stage footwear:
AMBER NEUMANN: “I either bicycle or take a 10-minute walk to the train, so comfort is important. My feet are wide in the metatarsal and narrow in the heel, so I pay attention to that when buying shoes. I have a pair of Tom’s that I wear often — beige with a little embroidered edge. Sometimes I wear boots with a little heel. I like Steve Madden’s shoes. My new favorite is a pair of heels I bought while we were on tour recently — very 1920s-style sandals with little heels. In terms of clothes, I stay away from tights or leggings. In winter, I wear big shaggy socks that somehow never match. I’m a thrift-shop girl, and I also sew my own little dresses. My hair? It’s thick, so I generally just pin it up in a big puff ball, especially when it’s hot.”
JERALDINE MENDOZA: “When my feet hurt, I try to wear Nikes or Adidas. While I don’t have the prettiest feet, sometimes I’ll wear flip-flops just to air them out. But I’m very into style, so even if I try to protect my feet, it doesn’t always work. I have a pair of Tom’s shoes in black, and I really like Steve Madden’s ankle boots. I’m not a big fan of high-heeled pumps, but I do like blockier high heels. My hair? It’s kind of messy, unless I’m on stage or in rehearsal, or going to a special event.”

DARA HOLMES: “I do think about comfort, but flip-flops are a bad way to go because you can get a stress fracture. Sometimes I wear sneakers. I like some arch support in my shoes because my feet are a bit wonky and flat. I had a pair of wedge-heel sandals I really liked because they held onto my foot without making me grip my toes, but they fell apart. I also have a little pair of combat boots, and cowgirl boots I like. I wear heels only as a treat — if I’m going out, or if they look good with a particular outfit. I’m more of a clothes girl than a shoes girl. I don’t wear tights, but I do like skinny jeans. As for my hair, it’s really curly, so I usually just braid it, twist it and pin it down, or put it in a ponytail.”
± AMANDA ASSUCENA: “I’m short, so I love wearing heels. But in the summer I try to keep my feet cool and comfortable and wear sandals or flats. I also like wedges because they give me a little arch support. Steve Madden’s shoes are favorites. I’ve got dancers’ feet — not pretty — and right now I have some blisters, so I wear more protected shoes. As for clothes, no leggings because they make my legs look shorter. I wear shorts or jeans. My hair is in a bun when I’m in the studio, but otherwise I like to wear it down, or, if it’s hot, in a ponytail.”