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Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé on the nuances of ballet footwear

Royal Ballet artists on dancing in the living room and boots being a dancer's best friend.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

3 March 2014 at 10.53am | 4 Comments

As we launch this year’s Pointe Shoes Appeal, we caught up with First Artist Francesca Hayward and Artist Marcelino Sambé, who are supporting this year’s appeal, following in the footsteps of Lauren Cuthbertson, Edward Watson and Mara Galeazzi.

To promote the appeal, Francesca wore a camera on her ankle, capturing a sense of The Royal Ballet from the perspective of a pointe shoe – from preparation, to morning class, to evening performance.

‘Shoes aren’t talked about a lot, but they are where everything starts for a dancer', says Marcelino. ‘You and the shoe warm up together in morning class as the shoe moulds to your foot. Your shoe is part of your skin and you can tell immediately if there is something wrong. It really does need to be the perfect fit.’

‘You can’t do a step without your shoes’, adds Francesca. ‘We are so lucky to have access to such an incredible shoe department.’

All of the shoes worn by The Royal Ballet are by necessity custom-made and specific to the requirements of each individual dancer. Jane Latimer, Ballet Shoe Manager, describes it as a partnership between the dancers and the shoe room: ‘The pointe shoes are not churned out of a machine. You have people in a workroom making each pair, and the dancers get very used to a particular maker. In the Ballet Shoe Room, we try to procure the best shoes we possibly can for them.’ Watch how ballet pointe shoes are made.

Pointe shoes cost The Royal Ballet over £250,000 a year. ‘When I was dancing Clara in The Nutcracker – constantly running and always on pointe – I got through two pairs of pointe shoes a day’, says Francesca.

In addition to pointe shoes, calf-length boots feature in a lot of costumes for male dancers. ‘Boots can be a dancer’s best friend’, says Marcelino. ‘It is a long process to soften the leather, and in the first rehearsals they can feel awful, but by the third show, they feel great.’ Find out more about ballet boots.

Francesca recently made her role debut in Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody. She trained at The Royal Ballet School from the age of 11 and joined the Company in 2011. ‘It is a real honour to be here’, she says. ‘There are some of the world’s best dancers warming up next to you on the barre in morning class, and it is amazing when you are dancing on stage to think about who has danced there before you. Performing as Clara was surreal as The Nutcracker was one of the reasons I got into ballet – I used to watch it in my living room every day!’

Marcelino, who also trained at The Royal Ballet School, joined the company in 2012. Last Season he performed as the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère, a role that involves being painted top to toe in gold paint.  ‘I loved performing the Bronze Idol – it is a very technical role and so it was rewarding when all of the hard work from school came together’, he says. ‘Working with the best people in the world is also really special. There is such a variety of culture and art all around you, and you feel part of a big family.’

To contribute to the annual cost of ballet footwear and support The Royal Ballet today, please make a donation online or phone Sacha Glasgow-Smith on +44 (0)20 7212 9510.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

3 March 2014 at 10.53am

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged appeal, Ballet, Dancers, donation, Francesca Hayward, Marcelino Sambé, pointe shoes, Pointe Shoes Appeal, Support, The Royal Ballet

This article has 4 comments

  1. Sahlen responded on 3 March 2014 at 11:32am Reply

    Kenneth MacMillan’s Rhapsody?!?

    • Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager) responded on 3 March 2014 at 2:19pm

      Hi Sahlen,

      Apologies for that error and thanks for letting us know.


  2. Rabbie responded on 13 March 2014 at 2:35pm Reply

    At the Amsterdam Opera they sell used ballet pumps signed by the dancer who wore them. Didn't notice what they cost but why doesn't the Royal Ballet have a go?

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