Passion, Beauty and Dance- Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes
The Red Shoes is a timeless story about a woman torn between her all-consuming passion for dance and her passion for her lover. Originally a fairytale, it has inspired ballets and several films, yet Natalie Weir’s current adaptation for Expressions Dance Company has brought something new to the story.
Watching dance, I am often conscious of not only the beauty of the movement but also its artificiality. It can be like Shakespeare that doesn’t quite hit the mark- you recognise the beauty of the language, but there is somehow a heightened awareness that you’re watching something manufactured. The Red Shoes was different- it was engrossing. Every movement seemed like a genuine response to the situation the characters found themselves in. This was particularly true of the principal dancer, Elise May. Her performance as Victoria was vibrant, wild, honest and spirited.
The rare use of the full depth of the stage, with multiple curtains being peeled back (representative of different states of reality, as well as on and offstage life) to eventually reveal the orchestra, was elegantly simple (like the rest of Bruce McKiven’s beautiful design). The costumes, all black, white or red, were striking and symbolic. The transitions the story made in time and reality were clearly discernible and made what could have been a complicated plot, easy to follow.
Tania Frazer’s musical choice and direction enhanced the sense of beauty and dreamlike quality that made The Red Shoes so captivating. The show was intense, in terms of the amount of concentration it generated in the audience. I don’t think I heard a single soother unwrapped, or saw a single mobile phone checked. The theatre was permeated by a rapt silence. It was also intense in terms of the remarkably controlled energy of the performers- truly amazing.
The performance was so captivating that the hour and a half (without interval) went far too quickly. I’m sure this production, with all its passion and beauty, will mean something unique to everyone who sees it.
The Red Shoes is a highlight in Brisbane’s dance calendar this year and is playing at QPAC’s playhouse Theatre until July 26.