A local ballet dancer has completed a triumph on her toes.
On Saturday, adoring fans tossed confetti and streamers as Savannah Walton, a sales associate at The Hip Joint and a trainee with the Charlottesville Ballet Company, unofficially set the world record for standing en pointe for the longest length of time.
The feat of feet clocked in at approximately one hour and 21 minutes.
Walton, a 20-year-old aspiring professional dancer, stood on a marley-covered platform in the dance apparel shop, located just off the Downtown Mall. Many young dancers laid handmade flowers at her feet.
Megan Hillary, The Hip Joint’s store manager, said she and Walton were brainstorming for something fun to do on the opening day of the Downtown Mall Crawl when they learned that there was not yet a record for longest time standing en pointe.
“So this is for fun, but it’s also exploded into something that’s become a little bit political,” Hillary said.
In order to be successful as a woman in ballet, learning pointe isn’t an option, it’s required, Hillary said, but to be successful in ballet as a man, pointe is not required.
“This is also a statement about the strength that ballet requires, the stamina and the training that are going behind [the scenes] for holding this for an hour,” she said.
En pointe is when a dancer performs on the tips of fully-extended feet, on which the dancer supports all of their body weight. The dancer wears special pointe shoes that have a toe box made of layers of cardboard and glue, which help support the toes, and a shank that lines the back of the shoe to support the arches.
Walton answered questions from those in the shop throughout the endeavor, shifting her weight and stretching her feet, but remaining on her toes at all times. Her family and friends watched through a Facebook livestream and sent messages of encouragement.
“What’s the right playlist for this?” one supporter asked.
“I Will Survive,” joked another.
Walton started taking dance lessons when she was 3 years old and then began again when she was 10 years old. She started taking classes en pointe when she was 13 years old. The Maryland native said ballet is her favorite style of dance.
“I just love ballet,” she said. “Anything ballet makes me happy. I don’t say I have a favorite part, but I love jumping. In ballet it’s called grand allegro.”
Walton said she only practiced standing en pointe for an extended period of time once prior to the world record attempt on Saturday.
“I did it here one time when I thought I had work,” she said. “I came in and they said I didn’t have to work, so I just decided to stay.”
Charlottesville Ballet co-director and co-founder Emily Hartka said the group’s mission centers around health and wellness, and the ballet company operates on what is sometimes considered a part-time schedule.
“We actually condense our schedule,” she said. “It’s really fast and really efficient so that our dancers can then make sure they have time to take care of their bodies and do all the cross training and all the other things that they need to.”
Hartka said that before dancers at her academy are allowed to go on pointe, they must do exercises, like consecutive jumps, to test their physical strength. The academy also requires an X-ray.
“Because by the age of about 12, typically, your bones have calcified and also have been hardened,” she said. “But before that age … if you go on pointe, and you’re stressing out your joints and your bones up until that point, you can really do permanent damage to the feet and ankles.”
Rachel Gluck, public relations manager for Guinness World Records North America, confirmed last week that Guinness World Records monitors the record-title longest time standing en pointe.
She said there is not a past or present record-holder and that the minimum requirement to break this record-title is 30 minutes.
Hillary said they reached out to Guinness World Records and filed the application three weeks ago, and were given all of the documentation requirements needed to provide to prove the record. She’ll submit the evidence this weekend.
According to the Guinness World Records website, the current waiting time for reviewing evidence for attempted records is a maximum of 16 weeks.
When all was said and done, Walton’s first request was an ice bucket for her feet.