Every morning our letterboxes are bursting with shopping tips – but where do the real experts do their shopping? We accompany ballerina Anna Calvo on her quest for shoes.
A beautiful summer’s day in Munich, not a cloud in the azure sky, and the freshly whitewashed Gärtnerplatztheater is gleaming: Munich is showing its Mediterranean side once again. And to make our walk today even more pleasant, we are meeting Anna Calvo, a ballerina who hails from sun-drenched Valencia, to go shoe shopping. The 28-year-old has been living by the Isar since 2013, and has just begun her fifth season with the Gärtnerplatztheater.
When it comes to everyday footwear, the slender ballerina believes in keeping things firmly down to earth: pointe shoes are a staple of her work – and that is where they stay. For day-to-day wear, she simply wants to be comfortable and feel content. And so, as soon as she leaves the theatre, Anna wears trainers when the weather is good and rustic boots when it is bad.
High heels? Not her thing. She avoids them for health reasons: “I sometimes have problems with my Achilles tendon, so I am supposed to keep my feet flat.” However, she also feels more comfortable when her shoes stabilise her ankles. She has to be really careful not to twist her ankle! And for parties? “Well,” she says, “anything up to five centimetres is okay, but I don’t really like those kinds of shoes.”
Anna – black leather jacket, grey sweater, black trousers – orders a cappuccino in the packed street café on Gärtnerplatz. She talks about the current centre of her world: rehearsing. Ballet director Karl Alfred Schreiner is working with his dancers on a new choreography.
Feather-light and effortless though she may look on stage, every role involves a lot of hard work. The ballerina arrives at the theatre every morning at a quarter to ten, is in the ballet hall by ten on the dot, warms up, practices until two – and then has another practice, either from a quarter to three until half past five, or from six p.m. until nine. This punishing daily regime takes its toll, especially on her feet.
“I have two new blisters, one on each foot,” she says. Where do they come from? Oh, it’s completely normal after a summer when she went for weeks without dancing, she says dismissively. The callouses are gone and it simply takes a few weeks to build them up again. In this respect, it’s all good. It would be much worse – and far more painful – if she had cuts instead, she adds. She’s had them before, though fortunately she doesn’t have any at the moment. Like all professional dancers, Anna is tough.
,,Munich is full of culture! All the theatres, the cinemas, the museums – it’s so wonderful! Life is so pleasant here, so friendly. And the city is so green.”
We pay for our cappuccino and head off to find Anna a new pair of trainers. On the way, she talks about how happy she is in the city, and how welcome she has been made to feel. “Munich is full of culture! All the theatres, the cinemas, the museums – it’s so wonderful! Life is so pleasant here, so friendly. And the city is so green.” She has a favourite spot, too: “The roof terrace at the Bayerischer Hof. I like the view of the city from there.”
The Isarvorstadt district is full of shoe shops, so we quickly find what we’re looking for. The 28-year-old is as uncomplicated as she is pragmatic. “I am not a shoe addict,” she says. If it fits, she buys it. In this case, it’s the second pair Anna tries on: a pair of supportive white trainers.
Since we got our shopping done so quickly, and still have some time before she needs to go back to training, we decide to take a stroll around the Viktualienmarkt. Anna has not had much chance to do that, as when she moved to Munich the Gärtnerplatztheater was closed for renovations. She has trained and performed exclusively in temporary venues over the past few years, and was therefore never able to spend her afternoons in the city centre.
So she is gripped with spontaneous excitement when we find a shop selling household goods and wooden toys opposite the Alte Peter church. She peeks in the open door and her gaze falls on a glazed display case. With a little cry of delight, she disappears into the shop. Anna has found nutcrackers – in all sizes, colours and shapes. Confidently, she reaches for the most impressive of them all. She gazes at it, lovingly: “My prince!” she laughs. Anna is now Clara, the character she is playing in Tchaikovsky's ballet 'Nutcracker'.
In the Gärtnerplatztheater’s interpretation, she tells us, the nutcracker is a real young man – the son of the godfather in the story, Uncle Drosselmeier. “He represents a completely different world to the conservative, sheltered environment in which Clara lives. He is confident, sensual and cosmopolitan, and awakens in her a longing for more.”
The shop assistant comes over and tells us that the piece Anna is holding was handmade in the Ore Mountains. It costs 98 euros. Anna thanks the assistant, smiling, and returns it gently to the display case. After all, she has already found her prince – her colleague is waiting for her in the ballet hall. She reaches for her shopping bag – well, at least it managed a new pair of trainers this afternoon.