Careers Restored:
Dancers' Own Stories of Rehabilitation Thanks to Gaynor Minden

Alina Cojocaru, Principal Dancer, The Royal Ballet

Bridgett Zehr, Principal Dancer, National Ballet of Canada

Jennifer Cavanaugh, Principal Dancer, American Repertory Ballet

Gemma Pitchley-Gale, Artist, The Royal Ballet

Jennifer Cavanaugh

Principal Dancer, American Repertory Ballet

In the spring of 2001, before I began wearing Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, I began to experience pain in my left foot. I kept dancing with a great deal of discomfort until the end of the season (about one month or so) and by then I found myself unable to even walk comfortably. I saw a doctor in New Jersey who told me that I had arthritis in my foot, but I felt that wasnít the entire story. So I ended up going to some other doctors to get second and third opinions, and my suspicions were confirmed ó I had a stress fracture.

After many months of waiting to get better with rest and physio, crutches and a boot, and even trying to dance again, I still had a lot of pain in my foot. Nearly a year after the original diagnosis I finally had an MRI. As it turns out I had developed a bone spur on the second metatarsal bone on my left foot, which was caused by continuing to dance on the stress fracture during the month after the pain initially began. On April 1st, 2002, I underwent surgery to clean up the joint and soften the bone spur, with the goal of alleviating the terrible pain I was experiencing.

My rehab process after the surgery involved a variety of activities to get my whole body back into shape after not dancing for nearly a year: physio, then swimming, later adding the elliptical machine and of course the ballet barre. With time I worked my way to dancing in the center and eventually to full ballet class in June 2002, though I didnít do any jumping because it was still painful. I began my season in August 2002 on Bloch pointe shoes, but I was still experiencing a lot of pain when jumping, particularly grand allegro ó even going so far as to alter choreography to avoid big jumps.

A friend had sent me an article during my recuperation process about Gaynor Minden pointe shoes and how they were better for feet. When my husband read the article, he asked me if those were the shoes that one of the doctors had recommended. (As it turns out, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes had been recommended to me previously.) However I was reluctant to try them because I hadnít liked the way they looked on a fellow dancer when they first came out.

At the beginning of 2003, my husband made me an appointment at the Gaynor Minden boutique on 16th Street in New York and took me there early one morning as a surprise. When I put the Gaynor Minden shoes on, I was immediately shocked at how comfortable they were and how lovely they looked on my feet. I went to work the next week with my first pair, and I was very pleased with how they felt to work in. In addition, I received compliments from my ballet mistress and boss on how they looked on me.

It took about one year after the operation for me to really be able to jump pain-free. However, once I began working with the Gaynor Mindens, the lingering pain I was experiencing began to decrease so I could finally start doing those big jumps again. The cushioned tips on the outside and inside of the shoe that absorb some of the impact of my landings, as well as the consistent support of the shoes over time, helped alleviate the discomfort I had felt when I first started back to dancing and jumping in other shoes.

Iíve been told by my fellow dancers, my boss, my ballet mistress that Gaynor Mindens look the best on my feet ó and I think so too. The strength of the shoe is fantastic for the kind of work we do at American Repertory Ballet, much of which is contemporary. I can put the Gaynor Mindens through it all and yet they still support my feet and keep their shape. Also I enjoy that Iím able to keep one pair for a couple of weeks to a month and I donít have to do anything to break them in ó just sew and theyíre ready to go.

Perhaps most of all, I love that I am still dancing. The doctor in New Jersery who performed the foot operation told me that I would have only another year or two of dancing after surgery ó if it worked at all. After all, the goal was first and foremost for me to be able to walk without pain. It is amazing that I have been dancing quite comfortably in my Gaynor Mindens for at least seven years since the surgery. I really believe that these shoes have given me more time to dance.