MATTHEW BOURNE’S RED SHOES

For the last twenty years, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s film THE RED SHOES has been on the mind of choreographer Matthew Bourne, and this year audiences in Los Angeles and New York have the opportunity to see this ideal match of creator, subject, and source. MATTHEW BOURNE’S THE RED SHOES—in its U.S. premiere, at the Ahmanson—is a dance about dance, brought to life with the primary-colored vividness and “stunning visual autonomy” that was a hallmark of the great Powell-Pressburger films.*

Shades of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes stalk the stage in this production of the Hans Christian Andersen story, a Faustian tale wherein a pair of red ballet slippers—functioning like Tolkien’s ring—drives the dancer who wears them (Victoria, played Ashley Shaw) to great heights, followed by exhaustion and death. Victoria is squeezed, artistically and emotionally, between her boss—ballet impressario Lermontov (Sam Archer), who believes a dancer’s one and only relationship should be with the dance—and her lover, the troupe’s composer and music director Julian Craster (Dominic North).

(For THE RED SHOES, Bourne rejected the music used in the film and has fashioned a new score with Terry Davies’ arrangements of Bernard Herrmann’s classic film scores. The “Ballon de Plage” number uses “Ragtime” from Citizen Kane, and several dances are set to music from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Hangover SquareThe Ballet of the Red Shoes—the production’s tour de force centerpiece, with projection design by DuncanMcLean—is set to Herrmann’s score for Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.)

What David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, wrote about Powell’s films could easily be said about the dances of Matthew Bourne:

“[They] never relinquish their wicked fun or that jaunty air of being poised on the brink. To put an arrow in our eye—to leave a nourishing wound—that was Michael’s eternal thrill… With a very personal mixture of wisdom and naïveté, he treated the artist or wizard as the last potent pagan deity.”*

MATTHEW BOURNE’S THE RED SHOES

Through October 1.

Ahmanson Theatre

135 North Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles.

Note: Nearly every role is triple cast, and during some performances at the Ahmanson, American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes will dance the part of Julian Craster.

 

MATTHEW BOURNE’S THE RED SHOES

October 26 through November 5.

New York City Center

131 West 55th Street, New York City.

In New York, Gomes will again dance Julian Craster in alternate performances, and New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns will alternate Victoria with Shaw.

*David Thomson, “Michael Powell,” The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (New York: Alfred Knopf, 2010).

Top: Ashley Shaw as Victoria Page and Dominic North as Julian Craster in Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes.

Above: Sam Archer as Boris Lermontov.

Below: Liam Mower as Ivan Boleslawsky, with Shaw.

All Shaw/North photographs by Tristram Kenton. Archer and Mower/Page photographs by Johan Persson.

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