The Mystery Of The Bolshoi Pointe Shoe
At first, I was very skeptical about writing this article. I wanted to write about the Bolshoi pointe shoes after obtaining enough information about them to have something to offer my readers.
After 2 months of very frustrating research, I’m right back to square one. I’ve decided to share my story and tell you everything I do know about them.
The first time I ever heard about Bolshoi pointe shoes was when my friend, Monica Newell, mentioned having photographs of pre-glasnost era pointe shoes. Monica is the talented head designer of Costume Creations in London and is deeply entrenched in the ballet world.
The Bolshoi Theater was in London in 1992. At that same time, Monica stopped by the Porselli Dance Shop near Covent Garden. There, inside a bargain bucket, were several pairs of Bolshoi pointe shoes. Loving the Bolshoi like she does, Monica instantly purchased the lot.
Knowing that the Bolshoi dancers were in town, Monica had a notion to stop by the Gandolfi shop and inquire about the Bolshoi pointe shoes. Lo and behold, the clerk produced 2 bags full of discarded Bolshoi pointe shoes. Monica purchased the second lot and has had them ever since.
Photographs of the Bolshoi pointe shoes were taken, and this is about as far as the story goes. I have spent numerous hours sending e-mails to various departments at the Bolshoi Theater with no response. I have tried contacting Bolshoi dancers through their Facebook pages, spoken with pointe shoe makers, and gone through listings of museums and dance historians only to come up empty- handed.
I was fortunate enough to be given one pair for my collection. The Bolshoi pointe shoes are a true Russian pointe shoe. They are incredibly hard! They are pre-arched with a v-vamp, high sides and heels, and no drawstring. The soles on the Bolshoi pointe shoes are totally unique. The leather is brushed for traction.
I have so many questions about these pointe shoes! Who made them? Why did the Bolshoi Theater stop making them? Did the dancers themselves complain about the shoes? Why is information about them so difficult to find?
The Bolshoi pointe shoes were made and used before 1985 which can make getting information about them difficult, but not impossible. If any of you have any advice, leads, or information about the Bolshoi pointe shoes please feel free to contact me. Any comments are welcome.
These pointe shoes are historical artifacts and a part of the wonderful legacy of the Bolshoi Theater. I believe that someone, somewhere, knows exactly what happened to these magnificent Russian pointe shoes…
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF MONICA NEWELL/ COSTUME CREATIONS U.K.