The Secrets of New York City Ballet's Pointe Shoe Room
Deep in the basement of Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater is a small, windowless space that's home to nearly 6,000 pairs of pointe shoes, neatly stacked on shelves that reach to the ceiling. It's New York City Ballet's shoe room, and for company members, it's one of the most important places in the world. Dancers frequently stop by to search for the ideal pair for a special performance, or to tweak their custom pointe shoe orders, trying to get that elusive perfect fit. "If the shoe isn't right, the dancer can't do her job," says shoe room supervisor and former Pacific Northwest Ballet principal Linnette Roe. We talked to Roe and NYCB soloist Emilie Gerrity about some of the most interesting—and surprising—secrets of the shoe room.
The NYCB dancers go through 9,000 to 11,000 pairs of shoes each year, including flat shoes, sneakers, jazz shoes, and character shoes. The company has an annual shoe budget of about $780,000.
Shoe room supervisor Linnette Roe inspecting the shoe stock (photo by Mayer)
Nearly all NYCB dancers wear Freeds, and the most popular "makers"—the artisans who craft Freed shoes, each of whom has their own symbol—are bell, L, Maltese cross, and crown. "Recently, L maker was sick for two and a half months," Roe says. "Suddenly, five women in the company"—Gerrity included—"had no shoes." (Roe had the five L wearers take a "get well" photo to send to the maker. "He means so much to these dancers!")
Freed pointe shoes (photo by Mayer)
Each pair of pointe shoes is kept in a plastic bag to fend off—believe it or not—pointe shoe bugs. "Old, unprotected shoes can get infested with tiny bugs that feed on the flour paste in the box," Roe says.
Custom dyed shoes (photo by Mayer)
Each year, the dancers go through 500 to 800 pairs of shoes performing George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. But, surprisingly, Nutcracker isn't the biggest shoe-killer. "Two weeks of Swan Lake uses more shoes than six weeks of Nutcracker ," Roe says. "It's just the whole company on pointe for the whole run."
Shoe files for an NYCB dancer (photo by Mayer)
Every dancer has a "shoe file," with worksheets detailing all the changes they've made to their shoe orders over time. "Some dancers tinker constantly—going up or down a quarter of a size, trying new makers, removing heel pins," Roe says. "There are just infinite options." The most common customization request is adjusting the height of the satin on the sides of the shoes.
Roe (left) and soloist Emilie Gerrity taking shoes (photo by Mayer)
Who uses the most shoes? Corps members. Partly that's because they do so much dancing—they could be cast in every ballet on a given program—and partly it's because many of them are still figuring out their shoe orders, whereas veteran soloists and principals tend to have theirs down to a science.
Gerrity's shelves of pointe shoes (photo by Mayer)
Every woman in the company gets one vertical column of shelving for her pointe shoes, labeled with her name, and there's no limit to the number of shoes dancers can order. "I still remember seeing my shelf with my name on it for the first time," says Gerrity. "It was such a big deal!"
Gerrity checking her shoes' flexibility (photo by Mayer)
"Before a show, I'll go through all of my shoes, put them on my feet, see if the platforms are even," Gerrity says. "I like to have lots of options. A shoe can change your whole performance."
A version of this story appeared in the March 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Secrets of the Shoe Room."
Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.
OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.
Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.
Principal Lloyd Knight has become a true standout in the Martha Graham Dance Company thanks to his compelling presence and dynamic technique. Knight, who performs leading roles in iconic pieces like Appalachian Spring and Embattled Garden, was born in England and raised in Miami, where he trained at the Miami Conservatory and later graduated from New World School of the Arts. He received scholarships to The Ailey School and The Dance Theatre of Harlem School in NYC and joined MGDC in 2005. Catch him onstage with MGDC during its New York City Center season this month. —Courtney Bowers
They say there's no "I" in "team"—and nowhere is that truer than the world of college dance teams, where precision reigns, uniformity is key, and a single misstep from any given "I" can cost a group a championship trophy. So it's unsurprising that securing a spot on one of the best dance teams in the country is no easy feat.
Members of these highly athletic teams rehearse for hours every week—on top of academic classes and commitments—and perform at football and basketball games, annual concerts, and nationally televised competitions (hi, ESPN). And "no I" rule notwithstanding, each of these top teams is made up of highly trained, highly technical, highly hard-core individuals, who come together to create a ready-for-victory pack.
These six teams aren't one-off success stories—they're consistently strong, and earn the top spots at major competitions like UDA and NDA nearly every year. Up for the challenge? Here's what to know before you go to auditions.
Today in Ballet Dancers Are Actual Superheroes news:
You've no doubt heard that the fabulous Alicia Vikander is playing Lara Croft in the newest iteration of Tomb Raider, which hits movie theaters this Friday. But while her training for the high-octane action role was crazy tough, she says, studying at the Royal Swedish Ballet School was far tougher.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I'm a hip-hop and jazz dancer, and I want to get involved in the commercial-dance world. I've never studied ballet, but people keep telling me I "have to" take ballet classes if I want to make it professionally. Is that really true? My family has limited money for dance classes, and I have to be careful about how I spend it.
Everyone loves a good viral video, especially when there's dancing involved. And though many viral videos are contrived and created for the soul purpose of instafame, the story behind the latest video catching the eyes of millions—including Rihanna, super model Naomi Campbell, and Diddy—is even more unique because it features children who don't even know who those celebrities are.
A dance troupe in Nigeria has become the next internet sensation, thanks to their exuberant dancing and passion with which they perform. Their enthusiasm for dance is evident in every step and it's hard not to smile as you see these children (who range from ages 6 to 15) express pure joy in something as simple as dance. These nine kids are part of The Dream Catchers, an organization started by 26-year-old Seyi Oluyole, that gives impoverished children a place to live while teaching them how to dance.
For 16-year-old Amanda*, dance is everything: her passion, her escape from the daily grind, and her career goal. Her parents see things differently. "I have siblings who are active in sports," Amanda says, "and my parents would rather I play soccer or basketball. They don't see dance as something I can earn a stable living from in the future. They often tell me I should just quit."
Some parents aren't able to, don't know how to, or choose not to give you the kind of support you need to thrive in the studio. And when your parents are adding stress to your life, rather than alleviating it, there's a lot at stake. "Dancers who don't have the support of their parents might struggle with self-doubt," says Dr. Linda Hamilton, a former dancer with New York City Ballet and a clinical psychologist specializing in the performing arts, "while those whose parents are too involved can crack under the pressure." Whether your parents aren't there when you need them or they're always there, practically smothering you, try these tips to improve your situation.
On Friday night, the iconic RuPaul made history as the first drag queen ever to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And it didn't take long for the world's most fabulous RuPaul fan/one of our favorite human beings, Mark Kanemura, to commemorate his idol's accomplishment with—naturally—a WALK to end all walks.