Getting the Pointe
Profile by Jane Ledwell
Nothing is more exciting for a young ballet dancer than going up en pointe—finally dancing on the tips of the toes in elegance and grace. Nothing is more important to achieving this milestone than properly fitted pointe shoes. And no one on Prince Edward Island has fitted more young dancers with shoes than Carol Bellamy of Demi-Pointe dance shop.
“Your feet are important—they have to last you the rest of your life,” she says, smiling and remembering the many first pairs of pointe shoes she has fitted on Island dancers. “You take your time with the first pair. It has to fit just right. With the first pair, it’s nothing to pull out 15 pairs to try on!” Soon, one of those first fittings will be Carol’s last. After 25 years as owner and operator of Demi-Pointe in Charlottetown, Carol is selling her business and retiring.
“I was en pointe for three years as a kid,” she recalls. “One of my girlfriends was taking dance from her aunt. I said, ‘Mom, I want to take ballet too.’ Oh, I loved being on stage,” she says. “But you get to a point that your life gets hectic—and there are boys—and there’s just not time anymore,” she recalls of when she stopped dancing in her later teens.
She proudly points to a picture of her daughter Valerie from the recent production of Nunsense in Dartmouth and glows with pleasure that her adult daughter is still active in music and dance. Originally from Ottawa, Carol and her family moved to Prince Edward Island when her second-generation dancer daughter was ten.
Valerie had an unusually shaped foot for dance. “I couldn’t get a shoe in Halifax,” Carol says, “and I thought, if I’m having this much trouble, everyone must be.” She asked her daughter’s dance teacher if there was room for a dance shop in Charlottetown, and the answer was “gosh, yes.” Carol approached her father for a loan of $3,000 to get started, and the shop has been open ever since.
Carol, a trained nurse, continued shifts at the hospital in addition to running the shop, and margins were slim in the first five or six years. “You were doing well to get $100 a day, starting out,” she recalls. The shop’s original spaces she describes lovingly as “cubbyholes.” But opening the shop even brought Carol back to dance again as an adult.
During Carol’s time at Demi-Pointe, dance has “expanded like nobody’s business” in PEI. From one ballet teacher in Charlottetown, there are now more than half a dozen, and, as Carol laughs, “every nook and cranny has a step-dance teacher… There’s so much dance on TV now—even cartoons that make younger ones interested in dancing,” she says.
She knows what dance gave her as a young girl. “It taught me how to keep myself fit. It gave me good posture. And, of course, a love of Classical music. Dance exposes kids to things they may not be exposed to ordinarily.”
And going up en pointe is “what ballet is all about,” Carol enthuses. “That’s what motivates them [as young dancers]. They keep going in their dance lessons because of that.”
At Demi-Pointe, they don’t sell to six-year-olds who want to go en pointe before they and their feet are ready. But as a special order for one six-year-old recently, Carol smiles and admits, “I made a compromise.” No pointe shoes, but “I sewed ribbons on her ballet slippers.” Carol says, “It has been a fun business. These kids are so enthusiastic! It has helped keep me young, dealing with children.” And, indeed, she is youthful and lithe at 70.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last 25 years,” she says. “It has really been worthwhile. Kids I fitted for their pointe shoes are now bringing in their kids. It is like an extended family.” Retiring now to enjoy time with her grandchildren across the street, and to practise the harp she began playing ten years ago, Carol will always carry with her the joy of seeing young people outfitted for dance.