The Red Shoes. A must-see ballet movie

Oscar winning movie The Red Shoes (1948) shows the insides of a ballet company and the drama life of a ballerina Victoria Page who is forced to choose between her ballet vocation, in the hands of authoritarian impressario Boris Lermontov (most likely modeled on Serge Diaguilev-who I wrote about in a previous posting), and her love life with composer Julian Craster.

Victoria becomes the prima ballerina of the new ballet “The Red Shoes”; the parallels between her story and that of the ballet are obvious: A pair of magical shoes that permit her to dance gloriously but tragically prevent her from stopping. According to Lermontov there is no time for love in a dancer´s life “Ballet is a religion”.

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The film is a classic for its multicolor photography, the choreographies of Robert Helpmann and the good novelization of the original fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen. Many artists like Kate Bush have based their works on the Red Shoes.

From my perspective, since this takes place in Diaguilev´s time and it is a modern ballet, the choreography may not be my personal favorite and the dancers may be too robust in the movie. However, it is important that at that time Russian companies started to believe in doing the “total work of art”, that is, paying attention to every element that intervened with a show. The choreography, the stage design, the music and costumes were placed in the hands of intellectuals and modern artists, whose contributions interacted with one another on the stage, giving rise to some of the most interesting milestones in 20th century dance.

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