The Mouse King, played here by Willie Anderson, is about to get a ballet shoe in the face. Image via Ballet San Jose.
It happens every year — well, it could. Cast as little Clara or Marie in the Nutcracker, every night you have to take off one of your shoes and hurl it at the Mouse King to deter him from devouring your precious Nutcracker. But you’re concerned about this stage direction, key plot point though it is. Is this violent action reconcilable with the vegan way?
At the very least, you can make sure the shoe you throw is a vegan shoe. Before choreographer and animal activist Cynthia King — an alumna of The Boston Conservatory, The Ailey School, and The Rod Rodgers Dance Company — opened her Brooklyn dance studio in 2002, a canvas shoe with a leather sole was the concerned dancer’s only option. I confirmed this after purchasing a bizarre pink plastic pair of something that came to a point in the middle and molded to the arch with all the flexibility of a flip-flop. Whatever it was, it was not a dancing shoe.
Cynthia’s ballet shoes
are available at her
studio in Brooklyn.
The decision to betray my principles and buy real, foot-shaped ballet slippers was traumatic and confusing, and none of you will have to make it, thanks to Cynthia. In 2003 she worked with a local shoemaker to develop gorgeous, durable, and affordable ($24.95 per pair) split-sole canvas shoes, using vinyl instead of suede on the bottom (your feet won’t know the difference!), that hug the foot like a sock and create a more flattering shape than any of the Capezios, Sanshas, or Blochs of the pre-vegan past. So even though I’m told that Capezio can now do a special-order vegan slipper with a six- to eight-week waiting period (if so, they keep it quiet on their website), I’m sticking with Cynthia’s. They’re available immediately from her website and from Karmavore in Canada, and are simply the best slippers you’re going to find.
If you’re having a more iconoclastic winter season, perhaps as one of Mark Morris‘s snowflakes, you probably know about Dance Paws, an accidentally vegan product made with synthetic suede, for the modern, belly, or other barefoot dancer who wants a little protection from the stage or floor. Lovetoknow.com lists Alternative Stores, Discount Dance Supply, and Ethical Wares as sources for a limited selection of vegan jazz, tap, and ballroom shoes, and you’ll want to stay tuned for the jazz shoe Cynthia King is developing, too.
I’m not sure if I’m going to be in a position any time soon to review the special-order vegan pointe shoes the site indicates are available from Grishko, because pointe is a whole other thing, or at least it feels that way if you try stuffing your feet into a pair after you’ve let a few years go by, but word has it that the Maya and 2007 models are available in animal-free versions. (Where are the paper-soled Sansha Recitals I wore once upon a time? Those were cool! I’ve asked the company’s USA general manager, and she’s not talking.)
And if you come across a vegan baroque or character shoe, will you let me know about it, please? After all, why shouldn’t every minuet be a vegan minuet? I’ll just leave you with that bit of holiday inspiration.
UPDATE: The comfortable and long-lasting Sansha Recital, with the cellulose sole, is still readily available; it’s just not listed on the company’s website. (Apparently the site represents their international outlets, which don’t carry this model.) After you’ve found the right fit at the Sansha store on Eighth Avenue at 53rd Street, if you need to order a pair from outside New York you can find one at New York Dance Store. Thanks to Cynthia King and the Sansha staff for this good news.
Sarah Gallogly has spent more time in ballet slippers than some of you have been alive. This is her first post for SuperVegan and we can’t wait for more!