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The Shoe Master

The dancers of BRB all require their own ballet shoes, especially made for them to fit the shape and size of their feet. The wardrobe department has a special member of staff to look after all these shoes, called the Shoe Master.

Michael Clifford has been the BRB Shoe Master for 15 years now. Ballet for Michael is full of feet, shoes, measuring of legs, and last-minute changes and repairs. The shoes must be snug and secure, to make certain the dancers do not slip when balancing on their toes, and so that they do not rub against their feet and hurt their skin during the performance.

As with many of the BRB technical staff there is not a typical day for Michael as the Company is constantly dancing different shows and performing in lots of different theatres around the UK and the rest of the world. However there are key tasks and areas the Shoe Master is always responsible for.

The responsibilities of a Shoe Master in a typical season at BRB
• At the beginning of a season, any new dancers that have only just joined BRB will visit Michael as soon as they start and he will draw around their feet on a paper chart and measure the key areas of the foot, ankle and leg.
• Michael will then keep this chart as a record, but will send a copy of it to the shoe maker that the dancer has requested. At BRB the dancers pointe and character shoes are made all over the world, from companies including Freeds of London and others in Germany, Australia and Russia.
• Any new pointe and character shoes for a production will need to be sprayed in the Shoe Spray room. For the production of a ballet called The Rite of Spring over 200 shoes had to be hand painted in red and yellow patterns.
• Michael is responsible for organising and supervising the shoes both for performances and rehearsals on tour. This involves making sure that all of the pointe and character shoes arrive safely at each theatre that BRB are performing in, and watching performances to see if the shoes cause any problems for the dancers.

Michael says that the best part of his job is…
I enjoy meeting and dealing with shoe professionals and dancers from all across the UK and the world who I wouldn’t meet otherwise.
Michael Clifford,
the BRB Shoe Master

Michael at work

Some completed ballet shoes

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