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At the ballet, baby always needs new shoes

November 7, 2008 |  1:05 pm

In recent days, we have detailed the woes of a variety of arts organizations trying to stay afloat as the economy heads down the drain. 

On the bright side, however, Thordal Christensen, co-artistic director of Los Angeles Ballet with his wife, Colleen Neary, reports that sales are up 15% from last year for their upcoming holiday performances of "Nutcracker," to be performed Dec. 12-28 at various locations: Glendale's Alex Theatre, UCLA's Royce Hall and the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. This is a very West Coast "Nutcracker," set in 1912 California.

Christensen says he's not sure why the company's "Nutcracker" is selling so well; he credits "reasonably priced" tickets (starting at $20, up to $95) along with the fact that attending an annual "Nutcracker" is for many a family tradition, perhaps less likely than other luxuries to be jettisoned when money is tight. Christensen also thinks it helps that the company travels to several theaters, bringing dance to the people instead of the other way around.

PointeshoesBut in the course of detailing the type of expenses that face a ballet company -- including theater rental, travel and sometimes even moving an appropriate dance floor into a space that doesn't have one  -- Culture Monster was most impressed by the cost of the shoes. 

Pointe shoes, to be exact. Whoa. This 30-member troupe spends more on pointe shoes than those "Sex and the City" women drop on Jimmy Choos.  During the course of performing a full-length ballet such as "Swan Lake,"  a ballerina may wear out two or three pairs of the delicate footwear, Christensen said. He estimates that each female dancer will go through 42 pairs a year, at $75 a pop.  That's $94,500 of the company's estimated $1.5 million budget.

In light of this expense and the recession, Culture Monster can't help but recall a quote from the  late Johnny Carson: "Why do they have to wear pointe shoes? Why can't they just get taller dancers?"

-- Diane Haithman

Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times