Tag Archive: shoes

Twinkle toes

In order to provide some extra fairy-tale shine to many of the shoes worn in Cinderella, the Wardrobe Department are adding individual Swarovski crystals. These provide more sparkle than sequins, and refract the light rather than simply reflecting it.

The crystals are attached to the shoes using a process called hot-stoning. Each one is in turn picked up with a device similar to a soldering iron. This heats and melts a layer of glue on the underside of the crystal without affecting the stone itself, allowing you to stick it to the fabric of the shoe.

‘The fabric is a man-made silk, explains Shoe Master Michael Clifford. ‘The shoes arrive in plain white, and then I dye them pale grey before the crystals are attached.’

There’s no specific design or pattern for them,’ he reveals, ‘we’re just trying to put enough on to have the desired effect under the lights. We’ve got some spares so we can always add some more once we’ve seen how they perform in the stage rehearsals.’

It is important that the decorations don’t detach from the footwear mid-show, as stepping on something even that tiny could cause a dancer in full flight to slip or skid. ‘I’ve given some of the pairs a stretch and a twist to check that the crystals stay on and they seem up to the job’, says the Shoe Master.

The use of these crystals is unusual, as the process of attaching them is so labour-intensive. ‘This is the first time I’ve ever used them’, says Michael. ‘There was a ballet about twenty years ago in which we used something similar, but back then there wasn’t such a process as hot stoning.

‘The only equivalent was to turn and old-fashioned iron upside down, and place them on it with a pair of tweezers to warm them up. But you wouldn’t do that unless you had a lot of them to do in a short space of time and no regard for health and safety!’


Practicalities have seen changes to one of Cinderella‘s most iconic elements. ‘We’re not having a glass slipper!’ says choreographer David Bintley. He smiles and shrugs. ‘It’s a ballet, you know? It’s got to be a glittery pointe shoe that someone can dance in, it’s as simple as that!’

While the materials have changed, however, the importance of footwear in the ballet has been expanded upon by David and designer John Macfarlane.

‘There’s a kind of language of shoes going on throughout the piece,’ nods David. ‘There are a lot of very different kinds of shoes that appear throughout the ballet. Initially Cinderella is kept barefoot in the kitchen by her stepmother. But she has some ballroom slippers, left to her by her real mother, which she has managed to keep hidden from the rest of the house. In an act of compassion she later gives these away to a beggar woman, and the fairy godmother subsequently gives her a pair of dancing shoes to go to the ball in.’

In addition, we see piles of shoes which the Prince has discarded while attempting to track down Cinderella in the wake of her sudden departure from the ball. As these are simply props, and are not designed to be worn, many are being cast in latex and polyurethane foam at the Royal Opera House workshops.

Here you can see an example, complete with moulds in the background. The shoes will later be painted and decorated to match John Macfarlane’s designs. However audiences will have to wait to see just how many of them are being created…

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