Salvatore Capezio was born on April 13, 1871, in Muro Lucano, Italy. In 1887, at the age of seventeen, he opened his shop near the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. The sign above his door read: “The Theatrical & Historical Shoemaker.”
He began his business by repairing theatrical shoes for the Met. On the day he created an emergency pair of shoes for Jean de Reszke, Salvatore quickly made the transition from cobbler to shoemaker. He discovered dance shoes, pointe shoes in particular, to be a challenging balance between delicate construction and complex engineering. In turn, his customers discovered that few shoemakers were as determined as Capezio to take on that challenge.
Soon the shop became a meeting place for dancers who would stop by to discuss their needs and pick up a pair of his shoes. One dancer in particular, Angelina Passone, a graduate of La Scala, lingered over the discussion of her shoes and later became his wife.
As his popularity grew, dancers from around the world made it a point to visit. In fact, Anna Pavlova purchased Capezio pointe shoes for herself and her entire company during her first tour of the United States in 1910. Her generous praise of his work ensured Salvatore’s success.
Eventually, he entrusted his superior shoemaking techniques to his family. They joined him in the business and the exceptional reputation of Capezio continued to spread. By the 1930s Capezio products were dancing across Broadway in the Ziegfeld Follies and in dozens of other musicals. In 1941, Claire McCardell showed the Capezio long-sole ballet shoe with her fashion collection.
The enthusiastic response provoked Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and other major stores to purchase and promote Capezio footwear. This trend became so strong that in 1949 Capezio made the cover of Vogue. In 1952, Capezio received the Coty Award, fashion’s highest accolade.
An eye for innovative products and the camaraderie he shared with dancers were the key to the success of Capezio. In this spirit, The Capezio Dance Award was established in 1952 to honor those who make a long-standing, significant contribution to dance. The Capezio Foundation was established in 1953 to promote and recognize ongoing achievements in dance.
Plenty of the world’s greatest performers have recognized Capezio as the only way to dance: Anna Pavlova, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Sammy Davis Jr., Charles “Honi” Coles, Alicia Alonso, Bob Fosse, Mick Jagger, Liza Minelli, Gregory Hines, Tommy Tune, Ann Reinking, Debbie Allen, Ben Vereen, Charo, Merrill Ashley, Rob Marshall, Ashley Tuttle, Fatima, Savion Glover, Brian Friedman, Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
Although the business is radically different today, third and fourth generation family members resolutely continue Salvatore’s legacy of craft, innovation and commitment.
With prevalent industry use of computerization and robotics, Capezio Special Make-up Department still hand crafts special order footwear for an eclectic mix of performers. Some noteworthy past and present casts include The Lion King, Memphis, Billy Elliot, A Chorus Line, La Cage Aux Folles, The Addams Family, Chicago, Mamma Mia, Wicked, the Rockettes, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney.
Capezio products have been featured in television and film productions such as So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, Gossip Girl, 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, Elf, Burlesque, Black Swan, Center Stage, The Company and Chicago.
The dedication of Capezio to providing dancers with technologically advanced, quality tools for their art continues to inspire innovations.