The Story of the Shoes

My dear Bonnie:
I have often wondered when you would have the story of the shoes told. It is a story that I have watched unfold over these years and have witnessed your dedication to this purpose – among many others that you take on silently and passionately – such as taking art supplies to the school in the centre
of Havana and many other selfless contributions you make to the lives of people who have crossed your path over the years:  clothing to the children of
your friends and colleagues, beauty and toilet articles to the moms; money given and taken by friends going to Cuba when you did not; toys and many many more loving donations and gifts over the years.

You adopt these families and children as though they were your very own and stay in close touch and always, always see them and search them out when you
are in their country.

Dear Bonnie – you are an unsung hero – plugging away in the background – never asking for recognition or glory – always giving of yourself to the very deepest of your ability.

I honour you and adore you – as I always have – since we were children together.

Your loving friend Judith
Judith Rosenberg
Spark of Brilliance


The Story of the Shoes
Bonnie Eccles

It all started about eight years ago when a mother in Varadero, CUBA  emailed me and asked if I could find her daughter, ballet shoes.

This started a search on the internet for a contact.

A person’s name came up, listed as Lynne Wilson who was affiliated with the National Ballet of Canada. On hearing my reason for calling, she said, “I have been trying to send a container of Principal point shoes to Cuba but it is too expensive.”

At this point, she went to her basement and said she had at least two or three hundred pairs of old model but new, point shoes in boxes, just sitting there.

I was ecstatic and she was thrilled, that someone would get these shoes to Cuba.

I drove to her place in Cabbagetown and took my first fifty pairs.

My problem now, was, who would be my contact in Havana?  While visiting a Cuban friend in Miramar in 2006, I mentioned I had 10 pairs of ballet shoes but did not know where to leave them. He immediately said, “Come with me”. We walked around the corner from his house and he introduced me to Miriam Vila, the Director of Catreda de Danza and The National Ballet of Cuba. A friendship was forged that day and still continues.

Little by little, I took Principal point ballet shoes to Havana. And, if I wasn’t going to Havana, I would get friends and clients to take 10 pairs here and there.

In the meantime, Lynn had connected me to Chan Han Goh, a principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada. Chan’s husband manufactured PRINCIPAL point shoes in Vancouver and they were sold worldwide. Chan approved my taking  whatever old stock but new shoes were available.

Miriam Vila had been contacted by the National Youth Ballet Company to work with Cuba in a venture to put on The Nutcracker in Hamilton. On Miriam’s visit to Canada, plans were made for the giver of the shoes and the receiver of the shoes, to finally meet at the National Ballet headquarters in Toronto. Photos were taken of Chan Han Goh and Miriam Vila and her choreographer Eduardo Blanco. It was an exciting afternoon.

I continue taking Principal Point Shoes to Miriam in Havana and in January was given the honour of meeting the legendary Alicia Alonso at the Gran Teatro  at a special reception.


One thought on “The Story of the Shoes

  1. Wow — does this one ever touch me super-deeply! From age 2 through age 16, I was a devoted ballet student, and attended the National Ballet Summer School for three summer sessions in my early teens. Though my path led into academic studies instead, for many decades I frequently danced in my nighttime dreams — much better than I ever did in real life, of course!

    Some of my most revered dancers back in the day were Cuban — notably the magnificent Alicia Alonso — and here she is. So it is beyond magical for me to read about Bonnie’s wonderful initiative and this realization of a superb dream.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us — Judith, you are a hugely gifted ‘nudger’!!

    Congrats, grins and hugs to all involved,

    Kit Wilson-Pote

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