If the Shoe Fits

There’s something mystical about the relationship between a ballerina and her pointe shoes. Finding the right pair is like finding the right pas de deux partner: The chemistry has to be perfect. I remember thinking of my pointe shoe fitter as my guru—she got me (or my feet, anyway).

After the Capezio 125th Anniversary Gala on Monday night, which paid tribute to the dancer-shoe connection, I rediscovered this New York City Ballet video profiling principal Megan Fairchild through her shoes. It’s fascinating. (And adorable: It turns out that senior principal Wendy Whelan is Fairchild’s “shoe mentor.” She helped Fairchild find the best way to sew her ribbons.)

My favorite part of the video is when the dancers visit the Freed of London factory to get to know their “makers,” the craftsmen who create their precious shoes. That’s a rare occurrence: Usually makers and dancers never meet. At the Capezio gala, American Ballet Theatre’s Craig Salstein, playing fellow ABT dancer Nicole Graniero’s “maker,” did a sort of fantasy duet with Graniero that was surprisingly poignant. In the end, New York City Ballet’s Daniel Ulbricht swept in as Graniero’s “real” partner. And yet I found myself rooting for Salstein. A good partner is one thing. But a ballerina isn’t a ballerina without the right pair of shoes.

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