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Best Ballet Shop in the World?

It's extraordinary what one can stumble across doing the most mundane of tasks - like buying a new phone charger when the last went up in smoke.

Nestled between the Apple Store and the Disney Store in one of Tokyo's busiest and most exclusive districts I discovered the tall, elegant building which is home to Chacott, Japan's leading dance supplier.

Chacott in Shibuya, Tokyo
Chacott has over 30 boutiques across Japan but the branch in Tokyo is the biggest. The shop is spread over 8 floors and includes 3 fully equipped studios. Most remarkably, they have an entire men/boys' department which takes up half a floor. And they carry enough stock that the boys' gear is even displayed separately from the men's. Is this unique in the world?

Men's on the left, boys' on the right.
Time after time I hear the complaint that no one properly caters for men's dancewear. In England, you might be lucky to find a few remnants of RAD uniform stashed in a concealed plastic box. I once needed to source a dozen pairs of men's tights for a show I was directing and visited an extremely well-known international supplier in London. Not only did they not have a single pair of tights in stock - they informed me that they simply didn't carry them.

Well, at Chacott they manufacture a variety of their own men's tights (footed/non-footed, high/normal waist) and stock them in men's and boys' sizes in five colours as normal with custom colours available. They also stock some other brands like Repetto and Capezio. Alongside men's shirts, leotards, socks, leg-warmers, a range of dance belts, tracksuits and of course shoes, they have a line of casual dancewear endorsed by Vladimir Malakhov and a ballroom range.

Malakhov looks down on the men's section. NB the boy first on his right
is Adrian from the documentary Adrian will tanzen.
If that were not enough, their costume department (which has its own floor) produces a number of off-the-peg men and boys' stage costumes while offering a bespoke service for specific requests.

The costume floor. Men not so prominent here...
A nice touch is the display of photos up the stairs featuring famous names in ballet who have visited the shop (think Edward Watson, principal with the Royal Ballet and Daniil Simkin, soloist with ABT). There are signed photos of Malakhov overlooking the men and boys' department, flanked by students from the Berlin State Ballet School and on the stairs to the basement there's a life-size photo of a young girl and boy in class.

Photos going up the stairs. Daniil Simkin dead centre.
This shop is an absolute model of how to make men feel at home visiting a dance shop - something I have very embarrassed, intimidated memories of myself from when I was younger. Besides the clothing there's an excellent media section downstairs with loads of DVDs and posters of ballet stars from all over the world.

Ballet for men has started to become quite popular for men in the last decade in Japan (from a standing start). This is partly due to the popularity of Billy Elliot but also because of the sensational success of male stars, especially Tetsuya Kumakawa (our post about him here) who has a theatre, company and school named after him. In a country where the most famous dancer is a man - and the arts are very respected - it's not surprising that young men are heading to the barre.

An advert from Ebisu train station for Kumakawa's
adult ballet studio, Ballet Gate.
Surely this shop is a model for all others out there? Of course, most local stores won't have the space - or demand - for an entire men's section but surely every shop should have a men's corner, a base level of men's stock and a few photos or posters of men?

In September last year, Chacott joined forces with Freed of London to open a showroom in Manhattan (map) - but I don't know if this is quite the same tour de force. At any rate, anyone interested in Chacott's products can visit their website chacott-jp.com (Japanese). You cannot order off the English site but if you contact them directly international sales are possible.

My thanks to Kohei Takeuchi who kindly invited me in and gave me a tour of Chacott HQ in Tokyo.

3 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for the tour of this shop. Granted I haven't been in many dance stores (I've only recently started ballet as an adult beginner, and have done my shopping online so far), but a dedicated men's section would be totally inviting and encouraging for guy dancers.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Jeff. Good luck with your ballet and do visit http://www.davetriesballet.com/ to hear from another adult beginner. Richard.

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  3. I have visited there and it is the best dance and ballet wear shop in the world.

    George

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