The first thing you need to know about this article, this content isn’t sponsored. No one paid me to absolutely lose my mind like I’m about to. This is just sort of something that happened naturally. Now, knowing that, I want to talk to you about My Ballerina Dolls.
While the rest of the Non-Productive crew went for lunch, I stayed behind on the show floor to take photos of a few booths I had missed earlier. James returned to meet me, and we began to head out of the hall, and across the room, several aisles over, I saw something that caught my eye.
“Are those ball jointed dolls?” I asked, thinking of the popular subculture of elastic-strung, hand-cast resin art dolls that can easily cost more than a thousand dollars.
“I’m not sure,” said James, peering between the rows along with me, “Let’s go check it out.”
The closer I got, the more sure I was that these were, in fact, thousand dollar art dolls. Standing at 21 inches, with inset eyes, spectacular articulation, beautiful sculpting and high quality clothes, surely, these were the kinds of artist created dolls that could only exist through unbelievable hours of hard, individual artistic work. These could not possibly, by any stretch of the imagination, be produced for market sales.
And then I was promptly informed that they were.
I really had no idea how to handle this information. I combed over them like a feverish animal, studying the joints, the sculpting detail, exploding with questions..
Mark Erickson, one of the creators of these amazing dolls, is a retired ballet dancer. He described to me his love for it, and his disappointment that there were no doll lines focused on ballet, real ballet. The passion he spoke with outpaced any I have heard not just today, but in some time, as he told me about how much he wanted to create a line of dolls for young children that would uplift and inspire a lifelong love of ballet, from how dance instructors could utilize the dolls as teaching tools for posing to future plans for child-size costumes to match their dolls. I felt humbled in the wake of such sentiment. Together, he and Tiffany Koepke began the line in 2016 to provide a completely new doll experience.
My Ballerina Dolls feature 23 points of articulation, with double jointed elbows and knees, a chest and waist joint, articulated wrists and ankles, thigh and arm swivels, and a neck pivot. They come fully dressed in the outfits they are displayed with, and have wigs that attach via velcro, and inset eyes. The eyes are hot glued into the head, but they have a removeable skull cap, and a dedicated customizer could work them out and replace them with another My Ballerina Doll‘s eyes or their own. Their outfits feature excellent fabric quality with tight stitching. Clara Marie’s winter coat is made of blue suede, and even lined on the inside. Their hands and feet are both realistically yet delicately shaped, and rather than the industry-popular garish molded panties, they feature actually cotton underwear, so they can wear dresses without it being a little weird. They are 21 inches tall, and hold poses excellently, with a strung body but tightly jointed vinyl limbs. Perhaps the part that most excites me is the shoes, the fashion-fun “ballet boots” are cloth and ribbon and have actual soles, an impressive feat. I was even informed they are in a process of patenting a brand-new kind of ankle joint that will allow them to properly stand on their toes!
When Mr. Erickson told me that they retail on the My Ballerina Doll website for 110 dollars, I was nearly in a state of shock. This is an unheard of price point for a doll of such quality- I am uncertain what even to compare it to. In looks, perhaps the BJDs I mentioned earlier- and yet, a BJD of this caliber and size would cost 1200 dollars because it is handcast by a single artist in labour intensive resin, in runs of maybe a few hundred, for hardcore collectors. It seems unfair to compare a doll intended for real play, designed for distribution, to something like that. Perhaps the closest I can compare is American Girl dolls- at 18 inches, they’re close in size, and at a bit over a hundred dollars each, close in price. However, an American Girl doll still has a fabric body and very limited articulation, hardly a My Ballerina Doll’s 25 points. The clothes are certainly of a similar high quality.
There are currently three dolls, one book, and one accessory available for purchase. Two new dolls, the Dew Drop Fairy with her peachy hair and grey eyes and The Black Swan with a gorgeous lace and sequin dress are planned for release this coming Fall.
Just as excitingly, also new and debuting at Toyfair, the My Ballerina Doll Petits! The Petits feature, currently, Clara-Marie and the Snow Queen, at an 11.5 inch scale. Mr. Erickson emphasized to me how important it was to him that the petit versions of these dolls matched their 21 inch counterparts as closely as possible- their shoes, still fabric, ribbon, and hard sole truly exemplify this. I can think of very, very few dolls at this scale with shoes like this.
The petits differ in a few ways, losing their ankle joints but little else. Their hair at this scale is rooted and their eyes permanent, but still inset. The resemblance to their “big sisters” is spot-on!
The play potential for My Ballerina Dolls is wide and exciting- for any child with an interest in ballet, they truly would work as teaching tools, allowing a child to riddle out a position by posing their doll to do it, working it out in their head. The extremely high amount of posability allow for a lot of different kinds of play, and the interchangeability of the wigs, clothes, and even eyes would be a wonderful opportunity for a crafty or artistic child to project that creativity on the doll, imagining their own character or themselves. With the amount of tutorials on Youtube these days, even teens and kids with equally crafty parents can learn to make doll wigs, eyes and clothes. For collectors, these dolls are an affordable entry to the kind of high quality many people can only dream of owning themselves, only produced by highly skilled artisans in small runs, painstakingly done individually and by hand.
There are plans for future dolls from many classic ballets, as well as accessory packs, more petits, child sized costumes and so much more! It’s such an exciting new line to see taking off and, hopefully, going even more exciting places. My Ballerina Dolls were a particular highlight of my 2018 Toy Fair experience, and you can bet these gems are on my own Christmas wishlist this year.
Update: Immediately after posting this, I was informed that My Ballerina Dolls are a licensed western distribution/rebranding of a Chinese doll, Ye Luo Li, or “Night Lolita” dolls. The costumes, wigs and faceups seem to be completely exclusive to MBD however, and it’s a very exciting line to see make its way westward.