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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Busy Hands
Text Charles Borden
Photographs Andrey Esytkin

Like the craft industries of many countries, traditional Russian hand-made goods and their makers have dwindled, replaced by manufactured substitutes, some made in Russia and many imported from parts east. Passport made a visit to one, not only surviving, but thriving Moscow workshop to watch busy hands at work on products that have a worldwide demand.

Nikolay Grishko

Finishing boots for ethnic dance

Ballet, a cultural icon of Russia, has long been one of the country’s finest exports, whether through the tours of its great ballet companies to stages across the globe or the starring roles if its dance greats in other of the world’s great dance companies. Lesser known but no lesser stars of the international ballet world are the productions of Grishko, one of the world’s three leading producers of dance shoes, costumes and other dance accessories. A visit to the small Grishko boutique just off Tverskaya is an essential stop for visiting dancers and knowledgeable dance buffs to find the company’s hand-made ballet shoes as well as other wares produced by dozens of master-crafts persons in workshops around the city.

Nikolay Grishko is still at the helm of the company he founded by in the late 1980s as a manufacturing cooperative after he observed an interesting phenomenon when he accompanied his professional dancer-wife Tamara during a French tour: Russian dancers were bringing ballet shoes from theater workshops at home to sell to European dancers. Grishko consolidated a number of the master shops and gave master workers employment during the difficult economic transition of the 1990s. At first the company copied older shoe models but Grishko realized that even for classical dance, new dance techniques and movements required new design. The old models were too rigid for modern dance. The company developed and used new technologies and design yet retained hand production.

Grishko pointes and ballet slippers are still handmade in their own workshops. Grishko says that “pointe shoes must be handmade and well fitted since even a small defect can cause injury for strenuous professional dancers. Also, the dancer should feel the soul of the shoemaker in the shoes.” Grishko tap shoes also have a solid reputation, not surprising since wife Tamara is a tap dancer herself. Other shoe styles include folk and Flamenco. Most of the Grishko workshops have now been consolidated into one location in eastern Moscow.

Pointe shoes in process

Dancewear workshop

Costumes are another Grishko specialty, not only for dance school students, but for some of the world’s best dance companies as well as professional figure skaters and theatre casts. The company has a workshop of highly skilled designers and seams-masters that work with luxurious and colorful fabrics to decorate a performer from head to toe.

Nikolay Grishko’s office is filled with the mementos of Russian dance he has collected as a patron of the art of dance. He has received numerous awards including a Diaghilev Memorial Silver Medal, the Vaslav Nijinsky International Memorial Medal and a Golden Mask Award among others.

Grishko Boutique
Kositsky pereulok, dom 1-А
+7 495 694 4622
metro Puskinskaya-Tverskaya-Chekovskaya

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