Shoe talk with Ballet Manila's Cinderellas (Second of three parts)

Shoe talk with Ballet Manila's Cinderellas (Second of three parts)

Shoes are at the core of the magical tale that is Cinderella. For when the soot-stained girl – transformed for a night into a princess by her fairy godmother – flees the grand ball before the stroke of midnight, she unexpectedly leaves behind one of her glass slippers.

Thus begins an exhaustive search for its rightful owner throughout the kingdom. When it fits perfectly on Cinderella's foot, no matter how unlikely a candidate she may be, it confirms to the prince that he has at last found his beloved.

Ballet Manila's latest interpretation of the popular story uses pointe shoes instead of glass slippers, but all the classic elements remain in this pre-holiday spectacle. Featuring the world premiere of Osias Barroso and Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's first major joint choreographic work, it casts KatherineBarkman, Dawna Mangahas and Abigail Oliveiro in the lead role.

Before the curtains rise on Cinderella, we talk with the three ballerinas about a most fitting topic – what else but shoes!

Abigail Oliveiro's Cinderella moment

Abigail Oliveiro gets to try on a special pair of shoes in Chacott Singapore. “The details on the shoes were absolutely divine! The photo doesn't do them justice,” she gushes.

What’s your shoe size?

My regular shoe size is AU/US size 7 or EU Size 37. My pointe shoes are Energetiks (Sapfir) or Russian Pointe (Sapfir) Size 38, Vamp 2 and Width 3. It is known as Energetiks in Australia and Russian Pointe in the US and R Class in Russia. Same shoe, different labels across the oceans. Not sure why but it’s so confusing.

How many pairs of regular shoes do you have?

Well, because I’m currently away from home, my number is pretty small. I have about six pairs: Runners, a pair of heels for events, Ballet & Ballet shoes, black boots (to edge up any outfit), white lacey shoes (for the sweet side) and ballet flats. But back home in Australia, you could probably add about three more pairs of heels/wedges, three pairs of boots and a couple of summer sandals.

Which would you say are your favorites?

I don’t know which I love more – heels or boots. But my boots have heels on them too! In the winter, definitely boots. They go with everything. In the summer, wedges or platform sandals. And at any occasion or event, you can count on me to be in heels! I’m just not in heels as often in Manila as I’m mainly at work and I just want to let my feet rest if outside of work.

What's the most expensive pair of shoes that you've ever bought?

I remember this VERY clearly. The most expensive shoes I ever bought was with my very first pay check from my very first job as a dancer at The Australian Ballet. Yep, I spent it on shoes. Heels to be exact. Which is actually a little strange for me as I’m not one to buy shoes very often and I don’t usually spend a lot of money on myself too. It was for The Australian Ballet’s 50th Anniversary Ball, my first work event! It was the most comfortable heels I have ever bought – Jo Mercer.

Do you have a dream shoe purchase?

This is the bunhead in me speaking but as far as dream shoe purchases are concerned, I wish I could have a fitting of each of the various brands of pointe shoe to play with! I’m not as crazy about regular shoes. Mine are mostly in some sort of nude shade with the token black pair.

Have you ever kept a pair of shoes for sentimental reasons?

I have my first pair of pointe shoes! I think I used this pair – a Bloch Suprima Strong 4C – for my first exam en pointe. But it was my parents who saved them, not me. I only just found out in April this year when I went home that my parents kept my first pair! I was very stunned. I was cleaning out my closet and saw a storage box. Inside it was an old ballet bag that my aunt knitted for me life sixteen years ago. And inside that bag was the pointe shoes – complete with ribbons! I don't remember that bag being in Australia in the first place and the way the things were arranged in the storage boxes, it had "Dad" written all over it. I just put them back. I didn't say anything to my parents. They kept those shoes and brought them all the way to Australia when we migrated from Singapore. All this time! Makes you realize a lot of things.

What do you do with your old pointe shoes?

I have given some autographed ones away. When I was in Australia, I would decorate old ones (I’m really not an artist in that sense though) but it’s really fun to decorate them like for Easter, Christmas or just because... Sometimes I experiment with new ways to darn or test make up on them to find the perfect shade to pancake the new pairs.

If you were Cinderella's stylist, what kind of shoes would you advise her to wear instead of glass slippers?

I wanted to say “But glass slippers are Cinderella’s thing!” But let’s just say we are altering it because I don’t think glass slippers would be very comfortable. Perhaps something that mimics the shine a glass slipper would. Maybe like a Swarovski-encrusted round toe pump. Simple and elegant.

Do you sometimes wish there were glass slippers in real life?

A million times yes. Again, it’s so Cinderella! I’m sure technology these days could make it somewhat comfortable. But we wouldn’t have to worry about technology if the Swarovski-encrusted round toe pump is available...

We heard you had a Cinderella moment in Singapore when you and your boyfriend, BM dancer Mark Sumaylo, visited a dance store. Can you tell us about it?

We went to Chacott and Mark and I saw the most stunning pointe shoes on display. We had this whispered conversation that we had to have a picture by the glass window before we left. When we asked the store manager if we could take a picture, she said we could hold the shoe if we wanted. So of course, I was brimming with excitement. As we were taking a few quick snaps, she asked if I wanted to try the shoe on. Of course, we both stopped what we were doing immediately and I blurted a series of “Are you serious? No... Are you sure? Really? Seriously? For real?” I’m pretty sure my heart was racing. And she responded with “Yeah why not? If it’s your size!” I slipped it on and it fit! Easily! It hugged my foot perfectly. The three of us got so excited! She urged me to step to pointe and when I did, she exclaimed, “Oh My God!! You are like the real-life Cinderella!” When she said that, I giggled and thought this just had to be my most candid ballerina moment!

Lisa Macuja-Elizalde’s Cinderella opens on November 25, 8 p.m., at Aliw Theater. Succeeding shows will be on November 26 and December 3 at 8 p.m. and on November 27 and December 4 at 3 p.m. For tickets and inquiries, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or visit

Abigail Oliveiro dances the title role in Cinderella, Ballet Manila's interpretation of the beloved fairy tale.

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