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3 Pairs of Shoes Needed for 1 Onegin Performance?Exhibit in Bata Shoe Museum on-line archive


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#1 GNicholls

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 10:12 AM

Beginner's question: At this site you can see what 3 pairs of shoes needed by Veronica Tennant for just 1 performance of Onegin looked like afterwords -- is that unusual?
http://www.batashoem...nte/index.shtml
There are photos and an introductory video about these and other famous performers' ballet shoes that I saw in a temporary exhibit at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto a few years ago.

#2 Alexandra

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 12:25 PM

Good question, and thank you for the link. I hope some of our dancers and teachers will chime in, but I don't think this is unusual. I've read interviews with ballerinas in which they've said they've used one pair per act. Sometimes they'll wear a softer, or more broken in, shoe for an act that requires that look and sound, and a harder one for an act with very crisp, demanding pointe work.

I was surprised she'd need 3pairs for "Onegin" though. I don't think of that ballet as being as demanding on the shoes as, say, "Sleeping Beauty." I remember reading that Cynthia Gregory used a new pair in each act of "Beauty," and that did not surprise me.

Long ago, the shoes were considered part of the costume, and changed as often as the dancers would change dresses or vests. The Lilac Fairy in "beauty" wore heeled shoes, changing into pointe shoes to dance her solo in the Prologue. Men would wear heeled shoes (Basil in Don Q, say) or boots, then change into slippers for the grand pas de deux.

#3 carbro

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 12:51 PM

Often, the shoes are already half-dead before they even get on stage. Each dancer breaks in her own -- softening here, reinforcing there -- before she wears them on stage. Here you can see how NYCB principal dancer Megan Fairchild preps hers.

I too am surprised that Onegin, with its less-demanding pointe work, would require a new-new pair of shoes for each act. I suspect that Tennant's three pair here were already old shoes, maybe had been through an act of Swan Lake or Giselle or maybe one of those war-horse pas de deux, before they danced Onegin.

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 12:58 PM

Don't forget that Tennant's shoes were made of nothing more than cardboard, satin and glue. They break down quickly.

It's quite possible that Tennant wanted shoes of different hardness and support in each act. Many dancers want a hard shoe for Act I in Giselle, which has hops on pointe and for the ghostly footwork of Act II, a shoe they'd consider (appropriately enough) nearly "dead."

#5 bart

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 03:06 PM

Is it possible in this case that Tennant did this in order to create a set of three souvenirs, possibly for a premiere -- or something for a charity sale?. The labelling (Act I, II, III) would be consistent with this.

#6 GNicholls

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 02:02 PM

Is it possible in this case that Tennant did this in order to create a set of three souvenirs, possibly for a premiere -- or something for a charity sale?. The labelling (Act I, II, III) would be consistent with this.


These are interesting replies indeed -- thank you everyone. I never realized how many considerations ballet shoes involve.

Incidently, I have a relative who works at the Bata Shoe Museum http://www.batashoemuseum.ca/ (shameless plug!), and she gets many comments that it's strange for a museum to devote itself only to shoes! To me the museum's collection shows that the contact place between the human and the ground is uniquely significant in cultures all over the world, each one interpreting it differently.

#7 innopac

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 04:15 PM

Thank you GNicholls for telling us about the Bata Museum website. I love this pair.

#8 richard53dog

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 05:46 PM

I love this pair.



Wow, those shoes are gorgeous. And the condition of them is almost unbelievable! How could they look so fine after 300 years?????

#9 carbro

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Posted 25 July 2010 - 06:29 PM

GNicholls, you might want to see this thread, which shows a wide range of company-supplied allotment.

#10 GNicholls

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Posted 05 October 2010 - 04:14 PM


I love this pair.



Wow, those shoes are gorgeous. And the condition of them is almost unbelievable! How could they look so fine after 300 years?????


Regarding the 300-year-old shoes, my informant tells me that this iconic pair has reeived more attention and loving care from the conservators than just about anything else they have.

#11 Gina Ness

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 10:59 AM

As Leigh Witchel mentioned, different ballets or even the same ballet, require different stages of shoes being broken in. For one part, with a lot of releves/virtuoso steps, a dancer needs really firm, newer pointe shoes. For something softer or more fluid with a lot of "roll throughs", a dancer might opt for a more worn pair. All shoes by the same maker are not created equal, as well. Some are just made better than others. So, it is the quality/personality of the dance that dictates the pointe shoes worn...


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