BM’s Cinderellas talk about shoes: Joan Emery Sia and her sack of must-not-throw-away pointes

BM’s Cinderellas talk about shoes: Joan Emery Sia and her sack of must-not-throw-away pointes

Joan has kept every pair of pointe shoes she has had since joining Ballet Manila in 2009. Photo by Jimmy Villanueva

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. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde's first full-length choreography, which premiered in 2016, makes a comeback with principal dancers Abigail Oliveiro and Joan Emery Sia sharing the lead role.

As the curtains rise on this restaging of Cinderella, we talk with the two ballerinas about a most fitting topic – what else but shoes!

How many pairs of shoes do you own?

Oh no! You should have told me to count them when I was home in Cagayan de Oro. But no, I don't have more than 20. Maybe more than 10 pairs.

Usually, when I see a nice pair of shoes, I buy it then I won't use it for a very long period of time. I don't like getting my shoes dirty, which is why it takes me forever to start using them. I even buy two of the same pair, thinking that if one breaks, at least I have another. Also, what if the manufacturer discontinues the pair I like?

What's your favorite pair among the shoes that you have?

I don't wear flats and the heels I have already crumbled. So my favorites would have to be these sneakers I'm wearing and the pair of formal black boots that I recently bought.

What's the most expensive pair of shoes that you’ve purchased?

I never go for the expensive kind. I'm not the designer type of person. So my most expensive pair would just be P3,000. I go for style and comfort.

What's your dream shoe purchase?

I've been planning to buy heels – the kind that will last long. Usually, I'd just buy faux (leather), which only lasts around two years.

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

Yes, it was my sister's. It's actually a pair of ballet shoes that has been repurposed. It's made of leather, the kind that's difficult to dance with. It was too big for my sister to wear, so what she did was ask a shoemaker to add soles. It was transformed into a pair of flats, which I used to wear all the time.

Now, I only use them from time to time kasi natatatakot ako na baka masira na (because I’m afraid they might wear out already).

How do you break in your ballet shoes?

As Cinderella, Joan Emery Sia floats on air when her prince (Rudy De Dios) presents her with the glass slipper she left behind at the ball. Photo by MarBi Photography

Mine are Gaynor's, so you don't really need to break them in. They're hard to sew though, because the satin is too thick. These are made in such a way that they don't stretch or wear out faster than the original pointe shoes.

Since it's a tough shoe, and my fingers hurt whenever I sew, I sew a bunch, especially when I find myself in the mood to do so. Then, I just keep on getting from my stock whenever I need a new one.

How many pairs do you through every month?

I'm not a big changer. I usually use one pair for two to three months.

What do you do with your old pairs of pointes?

When (former Ballet Manila principal dancer) Katherine Barkman told me that she gives away her old pointes or throws them away, and when I saw (fellow principal dancer) Abigail Oliveiro throw out one of her old pairs, I got so shocked.

I've kept every single pair since I got here (to Ballet Manila, in 2009). I'm a sentimental person, I guess. Now, I have this huge sack of shoes. It ended up with my sister, because we used to move around a lot. 

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

You mean, with the same dress? I think it's got to be glass slippers. You can't change Cinderella. She's an icon already.

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

So I could wear them? Um, not really, I think it's torture. I feel like masakit siya (wearing it would hurt). And then, kung mainit, mag-fo-fog sa loob; kung winter naman, mag-bu-blue ang toes mo (if it's hot, it'll fog inside your shoes; if it's winter, your toes will turn blue). Everyone will see that if you're wearing glass shoes, so no, I won’t wear them.

What's your fondest shoe-related memory?

We used to do these weekend shows in Star Theater, and then, one day, while coming from school in my uniform and heels, I slipped on the stairs, as I was going down to the parking lot. My shoes really flew all over the place and pinagtawanan na lang ako nina Henry and Ron (my companions Henry and Ron just laughed at me). It was so embarrassing! I had to the collect the pair myself barefoot.

So, what do you plan to do with your sack of pointes?

I really don't know! Future me will figure that out.

Cinderella revisited

Cinderella revisited

This Month in BM History: November 2000

This Month in BM History: November 2000