About Gaynor Minden > Meet Eliza Minden

 

Eliza Gaynor Minden designed and developed the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe. The impetus to create a better pointe shoe came from her own extensive experience in ballet and from her frustration with the conventional pointe shoe. With her husband, John Minden, a former advertising executive, she formed Gaynor Minden, Inc. to produce and market it.

Minden studied Cecchetti and Royal Academy of Dancing techniques in her hometown of Southport, Connecticut and received further ballet training at Jacob's Pillow and in New York. Her mother, a ballet teacher, studied with the Royal Academy of Dancing and founded the Connecticut Dance School; her sister was a professional dancer who graduated from the School of American Ballet. In addition to having sore toes herself she grew up surrounded by family and friends suffering from their pointe shoes.

After earning her B.A. degree from Yale University, Minden worked in the management of dance companies and saw their ongoing money problems exacerbated by shoes that lasted only one performance—the typical life span of the conventionally-made pointe shoe. Non-profit dance companies, always struggling financially, are further impoverished by the pointe shoe's lack of durability, as are dancers themselves.

As a longtime skier, sailor and windsurfer Minden had witnessed the introduction of high-tech materials into athletic equipment and apparel and had herself enjoyed the tremendous improvements and benefits that resulted. It seemed natural that pointe shoes could be similarly improved by the use of modern materials. Minden's knowledge of materials and of product development came from her experience in her family's business which designs and manufactures energy efficient lighting.

The introduction of the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe followed nearly a decade of research and development. Creating the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe proved to be far more complex than merely substituting a modern shank for a cardboard one—nor was it just a matter of covering an athletic shoe in pink satin. Hundreds of prototypes were tested in order to perfect the design. Minden drew upon the expertise of scores of professional dancers and ballet teachers; she also consulted numerous medical experts who specialize in the treatment of dancers. Extensive trials tested the shoes on a variety of floor surfaces, in numerous different climates, on dancers of different sizes, weights, foot types and levels of ability. A flex test machine simulated 100,000 releves to guarantee the durability of the shank. The revolutionary Gaynor Minden pointe shoe was introduced in April 1993. Minden holds two patents on its design and manufacture; she has four additional patents on other ballet-related inventions.

Minden and her pointe shoe have been featured on National Public Radio, CBS News, The Discovery Channel, the BBC, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, in the New Yorker and in many other publications. Her critically acclaimed reference book for ballet students, The Ballet Companion, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2005.She continues to research materials and designs that will improve ballet "equipment" and was recently named "Inventor of the Week" at M.I.T. She resides with her family in New York City.

Send e-mail to Eliza Minden at elizaminden@dancer.com.