By ROBYN BRISTOW
Designers dance socks are helping point budding ballerinas in the right direction.
They are also helping warm the feet of children in need.
Jenna McKenzie, the principal of the Jenna McKenzie School of Dance, has transformed the humble sock into an attractive and magical teaching aid, and her idea has captured the imagination of her students, and the ballet world.
For every pair of ballet socks sold, The Dance Sock Academy Ltd, a company formed by Jenna to make socks, donates a pair of sports or school socks to Kiwi children in need through The Clothing Project.
Jenna loves to make ballet magical and interesting for her students and uses imagery and props to help them with their technique. Socks, with fairies, wands, stars, with a few strings attached, are now proving to be an invaluable extension to this.
The socks grew out of a chat at a teachers training course on how to teach children the technical side of ballet without making it tedious and onerous.
Imagining strings pulling at their heels, mice under the insteps to keep them from rolling their feet, and fairies on their toes to make sure their knees pointed in the right direction have all been helpful, along with stickers on their feet.
But an actual pair of socks with visual marks children can see and touch are proving far more effective.
Jenna, who learnt ballet from the age of 6, has taught dance in Rangiora for 19 years, and also in London for a time. She made a mock pair of socks after the course to see how the children responded.
She did some “terrible” sketches of her ideas, then turned to glueing some strings on socks and introduced them to the class.
“They thought they were the best thing ever and it really encouraged me to work to develop the idea further.
“I then went ahead and designed 10 special features to assist dance teachers in class and students practising at home.”
It took a year to develop the design, incorporating a lifetime of dance-teaching tricks.
Create Design in Rangiora helped the project come to life with final designs for the socks, a logo and the Sock Academy website. Jenna then began the search for a manufacturer who could make good quality, affordable socks, and support a charity.
Her search ended in Taiwan, as finding someone in New Zealand willing to take on the project proved fruitless. However, she has not given up being able to find a local maker in the future.
The end result is a cleverly designed sock with colourful characters, including a fairy, a unicorn and a super cute mouse
“It has been so positive. I am excited about being able to help other dance teachers and students around the world and The Clothing Project.”
The Jenna McKenzie School of Dance takes part in annual recitals, exams, competitions and public performances.
There are about 500 students at the school.
Several past students have moved on to fulltime training and have become successful teachers themselves.