At City Ballet, Footwear Is Almost as Important as Feet
As the sets were silently put in place for a recent performance of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” the evening’s Sugar Plum Fairy, the petite and graceful Tiler Peck, was behind the stage making a few last-minute adjustments to her toe shoes.
“I just hate, more than anything, to hear ballerinas’ shoes,” the soft-spoken Ms. Peck explained. “I think it takes away a little bit of the magic.”
Then she began a nightly ritual of mercilessly whacking each of her pink satin shoes against a cinder-block wall at the David H. Koch Theater. “So I try my best to be as quiet as possible,” she continued, slightly out of breath from the incessant shoe battery, as its ringing BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! echoed throughout the backstage area. “This really does help.”
During the course of her relatively quiet performance that evening as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Ms. Peck would wear out two pairs of shoes — not unusual at New York City Ballet, whose dancers regularly go through 10 or 12 pairs a week. That kind of bill can add up: Those shoes cost nearly $100 a pair in stores. City Ballet buys 8,500 pairs a year, and has a $650,000 annual shoe budget.
And since many ballerinas consider their shoes as almost extensions of their feet — vital pieces of equipment to help create the illusion that human beings were meant to dance on tiptoe — an entire unusual shoe culture crops up at dance companies.