The Gaynor Minden pointe shoe grew from my love and personal experience of ballet. As an ardent amateur I realized that sore toes did not make me a better dancer, and as the daughter of a ballet school founder I knew that pointe shoe frustration was widespread. I saw many dancers discouraged and distracted by their pointe shoe problems, and many sidelined by injury.
Later, as an administrator, I struggled to pay for pointe shoes only to see them worn out after just one show. Non-profit dance companies, always in need of money, are further impoverished by the pointe shoe’s lack of durability, as are dancers themselves. And then, there was the noise. As a balletomane, I deplore clomping pointe shoes; they undermine the music and the ballerina’s lovely illusion of effortless grace.
Borrowing my brother’s bandsaw I cut open traditional pointe shoes and found cardboard, paste, burlap, little nails, and even newspaper inside. From sports I knew that modernized equipment makes all the difference in the comfort, safety, and enjoyment of physical activity. As a longtime skier, sailor, and windsurfer I had personally benefitted from such improvements. Why then were dancers — the most elite athletes of all — still using such antiquated shoes? Can you imagine a tennis champion using a small nineteenth century wooden racquet in the name of tradition? And it’s not just athletes who benefit from technology. Other artists enjoy the advantages of progress in countless ways : from painters’ vivid pigments to photographers’ lenses to pianos that can stay in tune for a whole concert— why not dancers, too?
Putting my outrage into action, I quit my job to focus on developing a better pointe shoe. I was fortunate that my family’s business, which manufactures energy efficient lighting components, had made me familiar with injection molding and unafraid of big machines. I researched the materials that had revolutionized modern athletic equipment, but found few that lent themselves to pointe shoes. Creating the Gaynor Minden proved to be far more complex than merely substituting any old plastic shank for the cardboard one—nor was it just a matter of covering an athletic shoe in pink satin.
Ultimately, I recruited scores of professional dancers, ballet teachers, and dance medicine experts in New York, and made countless prototypes. I tested the shoes on a variety of floor surfaces, in 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. Finally, in 1993, after eight years of testing and research, Gaynor Minden made its debut.
Our shoes are made in Europe with a unique manufacturing process that is both state-of-the-art athletic shoe science and traditional, artisanal craftsmanship. Every pair is inspected by hand. My husband, John Minden, is C.E.O. and deserves more credit than he ever gets. I continue to design for dancers.
The company that John and I started in our small Manhattan apartment twenty years ago is now a global brand. We’re gratified that independent medical research confirms Gaynor Mindens’ superiority in helping to promote safe and correct technique. We are honored that respected teachers recommend them, and that over 200 of the worlds’ great companies buy them. We hope you like them, too.
May ballet always bring you joy,