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

Shoe talk with Ballet Manila's Cinderellas (First 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!

Katherine Barkman: Birkenstock ballerina

Katherine Barkman can have up to six pairs of pointe shoes on rotation at a time, with the older and broken-in ones more suitable for certain roles or rehearsals. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

What is your shoe size?


Can you tell us about your special system in using pointe shoes?

It can get pretty confusing trying to keep track of pairs of pointe shoes! Before I start breaking in a new pair, I write the date on the inside of the shoe. If the date is older, then I know the shoes are softer and more suitable for certain roles or rehearsals. Other shoes with newer dates will be harder and less broken. I can have up to six pairs on rotation at a time. Before performances, you can find me trying on multiple pairs just to find the perfect one.

Outside of pointe shoes, how many pairs of shoes do you own?

I have about eight to ten pairs of shoes. I am not much of a shoe person and I go for comfort over style. It’s more important for me that my feet are comfortable considering I spend the majority of my day cramming my swollen, blistered feet into pointe shoes.

Which pair is your favorite and why?

My favorite pairs are either my Nike sneakers or my Birkenstocks.

What’s the most expensive pair of shoes that you’ve ever bought for yourself and why did you just have to have it?

As I said, I am not much of a shoe person. However, I bought myself a pair of Toms wedge heels which I loved because they were so comfy – with such great arch support! I am a bun head through and through! Even when buying heels, my main concern was my arches.

What’s your fondest shoe-related memory?

It’s a story that my parents told me. I started walking at 8 months old... very early. My parents took me to a shoe store to find me shoes since I could walk. The store clerk looked at my parents like they were insane. They didn't make shoes that small because children don't walk at such a young age! So there I was running around the aisles of the shoe store where they didn’t have any shoes to fit me.

Do you have a pointe shoe collectible? From whom?

I have a pair of pointe shoes from my teacher Nadia Pavlenko's sister, Daria Pavlenko,  who’s a principal at Mariinsky Ballet. She was performing in Washington, DC but I fell very ill and couldn't go see the performance. She sent me a pair of her pointe shoes signed by the whole company!

What do you do with your old pointe shoes?

I’ll never forget how it felt to receive those shoes of Daria. So I try to follow the same tradition with my old shoes. I give them away! I sign them and give them to family sometimes but mostly I sign them and give them to young kids in the hopes it might bring them happiness and inspiration as it did for me.

Other than glass slippers, what shoes do you think should Cinderella have?

While glass slippers sound beautiful and charming, they sound so uncomfortable! Ha ha. Cinderella should probably invest in some sneakers. Especially Nike sneakers! They are practical, comfortable, stylish, and I guarantee, they won’t be falling off her feet in the middle of a grand ball!

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

Katherine Barkman steps into Cinderella's shoes in Ballet Manila's next production.

Tiffany Chiang-Janolo: Shining through

Tiffany Chiang-Janolo: Shining through

Offstage: Playtime

Offstage: Playtime