Birdsall

Shoes

38 posts in this topic

I have noticed at ballet companies the gift shop or gift area always has old pointe shoes signed by dancers. Does anyone actually buy these? I can't imagine buying a pair of old shoes! LOL It boggles my mind! I love watching famous dancers, but I do not want their old, used shoes no matter how good they are! I am just curious. And what would someone do with them if he/she bought them?

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I confess that I'm one of the people who buy these. I most treasure my autographed shoes from Suzanne Farrell, Heather Watts, and Merrill Ashley from long ago, but I have some from newer generations as well. I have a little alcove intended for sculpture where I live and instead have used it to hang autographed shoes, photographs, and programs. Over time, the glue in the box of the shoe dries out and turns to sand, so they are kept in clear plastic bags tied with ribbon for display.

I once asked the volunteers at the ABT gift table why they never seem to have shoes from the Europeans. They responded that the Europeans think this practice is creepy, as Birdsall also seems to think. But please note that the proceeds (at least at ABT) go to the Dancers' Emergency Fund, so it's a worthy cause.

Surely I'm not the only one here to collect these. . .

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Oh my goodness, yes, people buy signed pointe shoes and men's ballet slippers. As a volunteer at both the NYC Ballet gift shop (when volunteers staffed it) and ABT's gift shop, I can tell you that signed shoes are very popular especially if the pointe shoes still have their ribbons or like Wendy Whelan's shoes, still have the paper towels stuffed in the tops. ABT dancers will sometimes note for which performance the shoes were worn. Young dancers and balletomanes buy the shoes of their favorite dancers; parents and grandparents buy them as gifts for their children and grandchildren. Some fans make shadowboxes that include the shoes, photos and autographed programs.

I'd be so curious to know if any Ballet Alerters have signed shoes. I do: Teresa Reichlen, Megan Fairchild, Rachel Rutherford (signed with a green pen because of her Emeralds role), Lauren Lovette (pink and black ribbons) and Wendy Whelan (ribbons and paper towels).

Edited by susanger

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Autographed shoes are a great way for companies to make back that fraction of the crazy cost of them, and, on the whole, they are relatively inexpensive souvenirs.

They're a lot more accessible than, say, the many thousands of dollars for Nureyev's slippers, Marilyn Monroe's shoes, or autographed baseballs, jerseys, and other sports equipment.

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I have a small collection of pointe shoes from some of my favorite ABT dancers: Amanda McKerrow, Diana Vishneva, Stella Abrera, Sarah Lane, and my most favorite pair from Veronika Part, on which, per my request, she signed her name in English on one shoe and Russian on the other. I'd like to add a few others some day, but they are becoming increasingly expensive. I display them in a basket on an occasional table in my living room near the grand piano. Admittedly, they are a curiosity to some. Others find them fascinating. Someone on this list has a great quote from Agnes de Mille appended to their signature about the ability of dancing on pointe to elicit attention, second only to screaming (or something like that, I can't find it now), which I love!

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... Rachel Rutherford (signed with a green pen because of her Emerald's role)

Very smartypants, that!

They're a lot more accessible than, say, the many thousands of dollars for Nureyev's slippers, Marilyn Monroe's shoes, or autographed baseballs, jerseys, and other sports equipment.

Thank you for putting this in context. Human beings are part magpie, I think -- the materials may be different, but the impulse to collect is pretty universal.

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This issue came up about 15+ years ago when a colleague of mine, whose wife was a principal at NYCB at the time, gave a pair of used autographed pointe shoes to one of the important partners in our company (as a present to his young daughter). He thought the partner gave him an odd look because the shoes were used, even though this is the tradition. (He also explained that given how much each pair of shoes costs, there was no way he would be giving away a pair of unused pointe shoes.)

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I bet the partner wouldn't have had the same look if your colleague had handed him a signed bat used by Derek Jeter or Andy Pettitte's glove.

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I bet the partner wouldn't have had the same look if your colleague had handed him a signed bat used by Derek Jeter or Andy Pettitte's glove.

Or a pair of Judy Garland's red shoes from The Wizard of Oz! One pair is on display at the Smithsonian. Another sold most recently for $600,000! And we don't even know that these were autographed!

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Theres-No-Place-Like-Home.html

I have a pair of red men's ballet shoes autographed by Marcello Gomes with "Met 2010 Basilio." When I went back to old schedules, it appears his only performance of Don Q that season was the first act at the Alicia Alonso birthday celebration (which I was able to attend). Those shoes will never be worth $600K, but I treasure them anyway.

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I bet the partner wouldn't have had the same look if your colleague had handed him a signed bat used by Derek Jeter or Andy Pettitte's glove.

As people are saying now -- word.

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I'm glad I asked this, b/c it is fascinating. I doubt I will ever buy a pair but I can picture someone collecting and making a sculpture of them, I suppose. My main concern is that since they probably sweated in them, do these shoes smell bad and do they sometimes get mold or mildew? I guess that is the part that makes me feel uneasy about the whole thing. But if those issues are never a problem I guess it is just fine to collect them! LOL

I actually did go backstage and get recordings signed by opera singers years ago when I first got into opera, but I always felt guilty I was wasting their time and after experiencing some diva behavior and then witnessing the same diva scream at fans right in front of me on another occasion, I decided I do not need to go backstage ever again. And I never did. All my signed recordings mean NOTHING to any of my friends anyway, so I asked myself, "Why did I put myself through a possible Battle backstage???" Some opera lovers here will understand my reference completely and know who I am referring to.....

Basically, I want to see a great performance and I now leave the performers alone and don't want anything from them.

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In my experience, the shoes are dried out before bagging them in plastic bags, and they don't smell. A friend came to NYC in the '80's, and we made a ballet weekend of it. At one intermission, she plopped a plastic bag with Heather Watts' toe shoes in my lap, and they were fine.

Chances are they've been worn at most for a rehearsal or class and a full-length ballet, and possibly for only an act of a ballet, if that ballet is highly technical.

Compare that to spending an entire film in ruby slippers or however long a baseball glove lasts (in and out of the locker room, and all that spitting), or the tape and sticky stuff on a baseball bat.

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In my experience, the shoes are dried out before bagging them in plastic bags, and they don't smell.

Perhaps Susanger can address this from her experience working at the gift bars. ABT sets out lots of pairs on their counter, but nothing is in a bag. NYCB sets some out, and seems to have a big supply behind the counter in little paper shopping bags. Either way, any moisture that was once in there is long gone by that time. I mentioned putting them in plastic bags after I bought them, partly so they don't collect dust now, but also partly because 30+ year old shoes literally start to disintegrate. The glue in the box turns to sand and starts draining out.

I do find it interesting to see how different dancers prepare their shoes in various ways -- cutting, scraping, breaking shanks, ripping out linings, etc. They all seem to have their own little rituals.

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PNB's come bagged. I don't remember about Ballet Arizona, but I'm sure they sell them in the gift bars in the lobby. I can't remember about San Francisco Ballet, because I rarely get to the gift shop at intermission.

I don't remember exactly how the NYCB's came in the early '80's. Perhaps the plastic bag was a carry bag. I just remember being so surprised. (And that Suzanne Farrell's white shoes -- from "Mozartiana"? -- were a lot more expensive than the rest.)

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When I was dancing, to make the pointe shoes work best on my feet, I had to do alot of preparation. I first would cut the satin tips off of the tops, sew double elastics for around the ankle( to secure the shoe so that it would not slip off during the performance)next I would sew elastics on to the ribbons as to have more give when you plie- as to prevent tendonitis. I had a very high instep so I think sewing them this way saved my career. Next I would scrape the bottoms , wet the shoes around the instep and secure the tie in the front . I went through a phase of darning them, but it got to be too much. You were always preparing your shoes- almost like doing your homework every day.

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Dear Birdsall --

I hope it won't creep you out to hear that it was a well-known ritual in the 19th century for fans to drink champagne out of the ballerina's slippers.

I think it makes most sense in the Catholic countries, where there's a 2000-year tradition of venerating local saints, and of visiting their shrines and cherishing the physical remains of their lives on earth. My slightly loony great-aunt from new Orleans had a 1/4-inch-square piece of cloth from a garment once worn by Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, which she kept foisting on members of our family who had to go to the hospital -- she was interested more in the possibillity that a certifiable miracle would occur that she could document and send in to the Vatican, in hopes of moving Blessed Claude up the ranks out of the beatificate into the status of sainthood.

A garment, or a fragment of one, something that touched the saint's body, the church considers [or did when I was a child -- they've kinda moved away from such superstitions] a 3rd-class relic. First-class would be a part of the saint's actual body. The Holy Grail and the crown of thorns of course have got TONS of cachet.

I do have a pair of Kyra Nichols' toe-shoes and I don't care who knows it.

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I have two pairs, both of young dancers around the time they were promoted from corps to soloist. One was Judith Fugate's (NYCB), the other Janet Shibata (ABT). As neither of their careers turned out quite as I had wished, I never bought any more to avoid jinxing favorite dancers.

A friend of mine has a pair of Gelsey Kirkland's. I tried one on and was surprised to find that while the box fit me perfectly, the shoe itself was almost two inches too short for my medium-width foot.

...Suzanne Farrell's white shoes -- from "Mozartiana"? -- were a lot more expensive than the rest.
I may be mistaken, but I think Mozartiana's ballerina wears pink shoes. White-shoe ballets include Swan Lake, Diamonds, Monumentum/Movements, and sometimes Symphony in C. NYCB prices shoes according to the dancer's rank. Trick is getting a prima's shoes when she's still in the corps. wink1.gif

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And then there is that infamous story on Taglioni's cult- (still retold on numerous websites as a historical fact) -which is what we might call the ‘Saint Petersburg Supper’. A couple of admirers bought her dance shoes after one performance-(for 200 roubles it's said)-, cooked them and ate them-(‘with a sauce’, some say...).

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I have Martine Lamy's shoes, or rather, my daughter does, and Karen Kain's (which fit me perfectly!). My daughter's teacher gave her one of Anna Antonicheva's signed shoes many years ago (the other went to another top student) and I was surprised at how rock hard the sole and shank were - they didn't bend at all! She had just danced Giselle in them and she has an extraordinarily flexible foot with a high instep and arch. I do have others but don't remember whose at the moment! I always pore over the dancers' shoes at the sales tables. While shopping at Capezio years ago, I found shoes earmarked for certain ABT dancers in the bargain bin - rejected by the dancer in question. Btw, I've stuck my nose right in the used shoes and never smelled a thing!

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When I was a teenager, I bought a package containing allegedly a very tiny piece of James Dean's jeans. The novelty store sold boatloads of sealed plastic packages containing such keepsakes, and we endlessly debated whether we were victims of a scam, but we were mighty excited, impressed, and amused, nonetheless. It was a lot of fun.

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Dear Birdsall --

I hope it won't creep you out to hear that it was a well-known ritual in the 19th century for fans to drink champagne out of the ballerina's slippers.

I think it makes most sense in the Catholic countries, where there's a 2000-year tradition of venerating local saints, and of visiting their shrines and cherishing the physical remains of their lives on earth. My slightly loony great-aunt from new Orleans had a 1/4-inch-square piece of cloth from a garment once worn by Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, which she kept foisting on members of our family who had to go to the hospital -- she was interested more in the possibillity that a certifiable miracle would occur that she could document and send in to the Vatican, in hopes of moving Blessed Claude up the ranks out of the beatificate into the status of sainthood.

A garment, or a fragment of one, something that touched the saint's body, the church considers [or did when I was a child -- they've kinda moved away from such superstitions] a 3rd-class relic. First-class would be a part of the saint's actual body. The Holy Grail and the crown of thorns of course have got TONS of cachet.

I do have a pair of Kyra Nichols' toe-shoes and I don't care who knows it.

You made me laugh with all this! Love it!

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When I was a teenager, I bought a package containing allegedly a very tiny piece of James Dean's jeans. The novelty store sold boatloads of sealed plastic packages containing such keepsakes, and we endlessly debated whether we were victims of a scam, but we were mighty excited, impressed, and amused, nonetheless. It was a lot of fun.

This reminds me of when I was in Berlin shortly after the wall came down, and many people had tables set up selling pieces of the wall. They were chunks of rock or cement with paint on one side. The two friends who were with me bought a piece each. I thought it was a scam and could be any rocks from any wall, so I didn't bother. LOL

Maybe the reason I don't want these things is that a member of my family has a hoarding problem, and I am scared to death of catching that issue, b/c my office in my house is so messy. I try to avoid buying anything I don't know what to do with......

But everyone has made me laugh and enjoy the variety, especially sticking the nose in and smelling the shoes! LOL LOL LOL I am still laughing, and glad they do not smell! LOL

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For some reason, the Four Seasons in Berlin was one of four hotels approved by my last company for business travel circa 2003, and it was the most opulent hotel I've ever stayed in. Above the mini-bar was a basket of things to buy, mostly the standard fancy peanuts and Pringles for 8 Euros, but there were also little souvenir boxes with (alleged) pieces of the Berlin Wall.

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I may be mistaken, but I think Mozartiana's ballerina wears pink shoes. White-shoe ballets include Swan Lake, Diamonds, Monumentum/Movements, and sometimes Symphony in C. NYCB prices shoes according to the dancer's rank. Trick is getting a prima's shoes when she's still in the corps. wink1.gif

Maybe the shoes were from "Diamonds." I remember they were a lot of money -- maybe $100? -- and a special edition fundraising thing, more than the standard Principal dancer's shoes.

You're right -- you have to invest in those shoes while the dancer is still waiting to be discovered by everyone else. The dancers that have grabbed my eye right away -- like love at first sight -- rarely disappoint me long-term, no matter how their careers develop, because movement quality doesn't often change. Maybe I should go into shoe collecting now.

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