22 April 2013 at 10.35am | Comment on this article
Edward Watson and Mara Galeazzi may be pointing guns at each other on stage in Mayerling this spring, but off stage they’ve teamed up to launch this year’s Pointe Shoes Appeal, The Royal Ballet’s annual drive to raise funds to keep the Company in footwear.
Each dancer gets through three or four pairs a week and with each shoe handmade to individual dancers’ needs, the cost soon mounts up. Edward has had the same shoemaker for 25 years, such is the craftsman’s unique understanding of his technique.
Though supplied by the ever-busy Pointe Shoe Room staffed by two full-time members of staff, all dancers – from Artists to Principals – are responsible for preparing their pointes, including Edward and Mara.
Mara’s farewell performances as Mary Vetsera in Mayerling – the role she made her Company debut with - requires her to make an extra commitment in preparing her shoes, as she frequently uses two pairs for a single performance, such are the demands of the role. First Mara sews the fronts, which takes about 20 minutes per shoe. Suede insoles are then glued in for grip, before ribbon and elastic are attached. She then applies shellac, a glue-like liquid that dries and hardens inside the front of the shoe. This needs to rest overnight before the shoes can be broken in the following day. ‘It’s quite a lengthy process. I spend about nine hours a week just working on my shoes so that I always have three pairs to use at any one time,’ she says.
Dancers are made aware of the importance of preparation, and how it’s essential to performance from a young age: ‘Some people might think that it becomes easier, but that’s not the case,’ says Edward, ‘Each choreographer, coach, partner and conductor requires you to open yourself up and deliver something different, so it is always hard and you never want to get left behind all the other talented people in the room! That’s something I learned at The Royal Ballet School, that I would always have to work really hard to be good enough - I still do.’
Although Edward will be wearing boots for his role as Crown Prince Rudolf, in the rehearsal studio he wears shoes known as flat-spins, footwear ¾ the length of a normal flat that allow the dancer to manipulate their foot (literally spin it round) without any risk of the shoe loosening. The Pointe Shoe Appeal also helps fund this footwear.
In his first Season as Director of The Royal Ballet, Kevin O’Hare is firmly behind the appeal: ‘I’m delighted that Mara and Edward are representatives for this year’s Appeal. Mara retires this Season after 21 incredibly successful years with us, and Edward - after 19 years with us - continues to astound audiences with his artistry, strength and versatility. It would mean a great deal to us if you felt able to match Edward and Mara’s, indeed the whole Company’s, commitment by making a gift towards this appeal.’
From the craftsmanship that goes into making the shoes, to the careful hours of preparation, the discipline in the rehearsal studio and the precision required on stage - each Royal Ballet performance is underpinned by outstanding commitment. Might you match that commitment with a donation to the Pointe Shoes Appeal?
How could you help?
- £5 will pay for the elastic that supports a dancer’s ankle in a pair of pointes
- £18 will pay for a pair of men’s flats
- £36 will pay for a pair of pointe shoes
- £72 will pay for two pairs of pointes, a day’s supply for a Principal dancer
- £180 will pay for five pairs of pointes, a week’s supply for a corps de ballet dancer
- £320 will pay for a custom made pair of men’s ballet boots
- £1,000 will pay for a month’s supply of pointe shoes for a principal dancer of a year’s supply of ribbon for the whole Company
- £5,000 will pay for a year’s supply of elastic for the whole Company.