Pointe Shoes Room: A look at the caterpillar’s feet in Alice
Eight dancers wear custom-made shoes each hand-encrusted with 365 crystals.
Caterpillar pointe shoes as worn in The Royal Ballet's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland © ROH/Chris Shipman, 2013
It’s one of the best-loved scenes in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: the meeting of Alice and the hookah smoking Caterpillar. After his solo, backed by Arabian princesses, the caterpillar departs the stage with parasol in hand, followed by a trail of legs in perfect unison. 16 legs with 16 feet, all wearing the most beautiful, royal blue, crystal-encrusted pointe shoes. It’s a moment audiences love but behind it lies a huge amount of effort.
Each blue shoe belongs to one of eight dancers: either members of The Royal Ballet Company or Royal Ballet School students. Each individual pair is prepared by one of the two members of staff working in the Ballet Shoe Room. Jane and Máire first have to fit the shoes, before dying them an exact shade of royal blue. Blue ribbons are then attached before each shoe is hand-encrusted with 365 crystals. It takes about a day to prepare each pair of shoes, and these are just 8 of the thousands (approximately 11,000) pairs of pointes Jane and Máire have to make sure are available to the Company throughout the Season
The Ballet Shoe Room is particularly busy at the moment, with three full-Company works needing support. Before the end of the Season, Jane and Máire will have ordered, dyed, prepared and got the right shoes to the right dancer for 11 performances of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 12 Bayadères and 13 performances of Mayerling.
We need an investment of over £250,000 each Season to support Jane and Máire’s work meeting the ballet footwear demands, and each year we run a Pointe Shoes Appeal. Every donation makes a very real difference:
- £5 could buy the elastic that is sewn onto every pair to support the ankle
- £30 could buy a pair of men’s ballet flats
- £36 could buy a pair of pointe shoes
- £72 could buy two pairs of pointes
Thank you to everyone who supports us. We are very grateful for the part you play in our success.