Gaynor Minden opened its doors in New York City in 1993, having outgrown its first home in John and Eliza Minden’s small Manhattan apartment. We had one part-time employee and one product: the patented pointe shoe that Eliza Minden had developed over the preceding eight years.
It was the first successful modernization of ballet’s iconic footwear, and today Gaynor Minden is a global brand, available at hundreds of dance-specialty stores nation-wide as well as through numerous overseas distributors. While still very much a family business, we have offices on three continents and at last count we ship to 85 countries and over 200 professional companies. Gaynor Mindens are used at almost every major ballet company in the world including American Ballet Theatre, England’s Royal Ballet, The Paris Opera Ballet, The Bolshoi Ballet, The Mariinsky Ballet, The Royal Danish Ballet, The Dutch National Ballet, The San Francisco, Houston, and Boston Ballets… to name just a few.
The original Gaynor Mindens had stiff shanks and were available with only a few fitting choices. We now offer a greatly expanded range of options including ultra-flexible shanks and boxes, a narrow-heeled style for the sleekest possible fit, longer sizes for today’s bigger feet, built-in suede tips for extra durability, and Luxe self-smoothing satin — all for stock shoes. In addition we offer extensive additional customization by special order.
Our pointe shoes are manufactured, as they always have been, in Lawrence, Massachusetts in a process that combines hand craftsmanship with the latest footwear technology. It’s in a 19th century factory building that was recently updated with solar power. (We think that’s a nice analogy to updating a 19th century shoe with modern materials.)
Apparel and Slippers
Gaynor Minden began producing leotards in the late 1990’s, in a handful of distinctive styles that were markedly dressier and more fashion-inspired than typical studio wear; today even our basic styles are still distinguished by unique details. Our children’s line, Miniminden, (we couldn’t resist) arrived soon after. Our apparel also includes a popular line of tights, as well as innovative warm-ups that bring fabrics such as bamboo, silk-knits, stretch fleece, and featherlight Italian wool to practice clothing. We make dance bags, training aids, and unusual accessories, too.
Joy, the Gaynor Minden technique slipper (patent pending) for adults, debuted in 2014, following the launch of the children’s version in 2013. Like the pointe shoe, our technique shoe spent years in development to ensure that it not only met Gaynor Minden’s standards, but that it offered features not available in other slippers.
Acceptance in the Ballet World
Enthusiasm, skepticism, gratitude, suspicion — the initial reaction to Gaynor Minden was mixed, not surprising given ballet’s traditionalism. (There was a scandal the first time a ballerina wore a tutu on stage.) Fortunately, early adopters and influential teachers encouraged other dancers to try them. Dancer feedback led to the development of many additional fitting options, and to this day we still work closely with dancers and teachers as we update and improve our products.
Ballet’s traditions are part of what make it so wonderful; being conservative has helped ballet preserve its greatness. But ballet has often been reluctant to acknowledge the athletic needs of its amazing artists, whose job it is to conceal athleticism under a serene smile and who understandably do not want their art to become a sport. Unlike sports equipment, where innovation is constant and welcome, ballet “equipment” has been slow and resistant to change. Gaynor Mindens became controversial almost as soon as they became successful; Eliza Minden was pictured as Satan on a Facebook page; one of our competitors accused us of being a CIA plot intended to destroy Russian ballet; they were dubbed “Cheater Shoes”. (Any overly stiff pointe shoe can allow the dancer to “cheat” and not work her muscles correctly but unlike traditional pointe shoes, Gaynor Mindens do not soften with use. In fairness to dancers who have found Gaynor Mindens too stiff, you may not have tried our more pliable styles because not all stores carry them. Also, dancers accustomed to breaking in traditional shoes sometimes insist on a very stiff Gaynor Minden, not understanding that, in our case, durability is not a function of hardness.)
We realized that no advertisement is as eloquent as the example of a great dancer moving beautifully in our shoes, so we created the Gaynor Minden Artists program. Gaynor Minden Artists dance at the world’s greatest companies; they have chosen to wear Gaynor Minden exclusively, and have used them for at least a year before being invited to participate. They receive a small honorarium but we never pay dancers to wear our shoes. Their endorsements and images — usually in striking live performance photographs — appear in posters and our award-winning print advertisements.
We were among the earliest users of the Internet (that’s how we got dancer.com for our domain name) and we pioneered online fitting, enabling us to serve dancers who live far from a dancewear store. But we also still travel extensively— from Japan to Panama to Siberia — to personally visit stores, schools, and companies.
Gaynor Minden has been the subject of many programs and articles. The Discovery Channel, CBS’s Evening News, PBS’ Nightly Business Report, NPR, the BBC, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angels Times, The Times of London, The Telegraph, Shape, Victoria, Glamour, Working Woman, Vogue and numerous others have featured the company.
Our New York boutique, still in the parlor of a nineteenth century brownstone in Chelsea, is now open seven days a week to accommodate the ever-increasing number of dancers who come from all over the world to be fitted.
Our commitment to dancers’ health and education is stronger than ever. For over a decade our “Eat Right” campaign has helped raise awareness of disordered eating, using our website as a resource for help and information. Eliza Minden’s The Ballet Companion, (Simon and Schuster, 2005), continues to be a definitive reference book for students. Gaynor Minden gives lectures on ballet history, pointe shoe construction, and injury prevention at dance schools and summer programs throughout the country. We maintain a Facebook page that offers interesting, educational, or amusing non-commercial, dance-related content. Our web site aims to be an informative and lively resource for dancers, their teachers and parents. Our Studio Awards Program enables local dancewear shops to help deserving students by providing them with shoes and dancewear. We are proud sponsors of the students at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, North Carolina School of the Arts, and others.