COLUM MCCANN: I HATE THE WORD ‘SLIPPER’

Pere Ubu
The Fabulous Sequel (Have Shoes Will Walk) | 7" EP Chrysalis, 1979
Source: Discogs


… opens the shopping bag, sets the shoes out on his work desk, just finishing touches - a shank to be trimmed, a wing block to be extended, a drawstring that requires threading through, a heel to be cut down - neat, precise, and when he is finished he wraps them each in plastic, making sure there are no creases in the wrapping, since he has a reputation to maintain, the ballerinas, the choreographers, the opera houses … 



CA. 1882 | Edgar Degas
Danseuse espagnole et études de jambes | Spanish dancer and studies of legs


… they all seek him out, sending their specifications, a foot so wide at the toes and so narrow at the heel he must stretch the shoe to accommodate it, the fourth toe abnormally longer than the third, something he solves with the simple loosening of a stitch, the shoe that needs a harder shank, a higher back, a softer sole, he is well-known for his tricks, they talk about him, the dancers with their difficulties or those just simply fussy, writing him letters, sending him telegrams, sometimes even visiting him at the factory - meet your maker! - especially those from the Royal Ballet, so delicate and fine and appreciative …



1943 | Shoe Rationing
Photograph: Walter Sanders


… then takes the stack of shoes from the shelf and sets once again to work, and he works all morning long, although Saturdays aren’t considered overtime, he doesn’t care, he enjoys the repetitions and differing demands, the women’s toe shoes so much more intricate and difficult than the ballet boots for men, the French with more of an eye for flair than the English, the softer leather pads demanded by the Spanish, the Americans who call their shoes slippers, and how he detests that word, slipper, like something out of a fairy tale …

Colum McCann
From “Dancer” (Picador, 2004)

Ballet Slippers


 

LAST FOR LIFE

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