March 10, 2011

Put them in a box somewhere put them in a drawer…

Elton John

Perhaps the creators of “The Red Shoes” did not propose for the film to have the profound meaning that it would have with women, especially with women artists, in years to come. Still beautiful to look at (despite the frightful melodrama of the acting), and a brilliant score by Brian Easdale, it strikes a chord.

Ms. Edna's favorite image from the movie

After a screening of the movie yesterday, followed a heated discussion with women artists who were pointing out the conflicts between dedication to their art and the relationships with the people they love. This was not an analysis of the film but an examination of the issues it raised for women and art.

Women and sacrifice abound in art... Anna Karenina, La Traviata, Jane Eyre, The House of Mirth, The Portrait of a Lady... These stories have enormous power. However, far fewer stories exist about one's dedication to and sacrifice for one's art.

In the film, Victoria 'Vicky' Page is an unknown dancer who aspires to dance with the prestigious Lermontov Ballet. She meets Boris Lermontov, the charismatic impresario of the Ballet Lermontov, who tauntingly questions her about her devotion to ballet before he sees her dance:

Lermontov: Why do you want to dance?
Vicky: Why do you want to live?
Lermontov: Well, I don't know exactly why, but...I must.
Vicky: That's my answer too.

Vicky is as compelled to dance as we are compelled to write, to paint, to sing, to act, to create, to live.
Intrigued by her saucy answer, Lermontov takes her on as a student. He sees her dance in a performance of Swan Lake in a small, modest venue and realizes her potential. Vicky is then invited to go with the company to Paris and Monte Carlo and when Lermontov loses his Russian prima ballerina (she wishes to marry - apparently it is impossible to think that she could possibly do both), he begins to see Vicky as a possible successor.

Lermontov pronounces, "A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer. Never." When someone notes that you cannot change human nature, Lermontov snaps, "I think you can do even better than that - you can ignore it."

Lermontov creates a starring role for Vicky in the new ballet, The Red Shoes, written by a new young composer based on an old folk tale by Hans Christian Anderson. In the ballet, a young girl becomes enchanted with (and enchanted by) a magic pair of red shoes which permit her to dance and dance but the trick is that she is unable to stop dancing even when she wants to. In desperation, she even tries to cut the slippers off her feet but to no avail. The only way that she can stop dancing is by dying, with the slippers on.

These were/are our choices then, and now?

Rejecting one's art = death? Love = stop pursuing one's passion in life?

Despite the tragic ending, the film resonates. Are we in love with the fantasy of giving up everything (art, independence, freedom) for love? Yes, masochistically, sometimes we are.


Karen (SAG) said...

Thank you Ms. Edna for a MOST inspired presentation.

Janet said...

You deserve kudos. It's not easy to talk about this stuff.
Especially when being open and honest.
Great lecture and blogs!

Petunia said...

It was scary initially, but I was okay after we got going.
In the meantime, the lecture was great.
I appreciate your time with us.
Thanks, Petunia!

Kelsey said...

Guilt, regret, and unbridled rage…
NOBODY was happy.
But, I'm getting better.
I thought you may want to know.

frenchtoast said...

Well-meaning people were affronted by what they considered to be a frightening challenge to the conventions...

Etc., Etc., Etc. ;-)

Alistair said...

Engage, or quite obliterate!

Anja said...

Ah, yes. Something we will have to talk about when I visit.

Charles said...

Aw, stick with me lass; I will always be the wind in your sail.
Or is that blow you away?
Well done, so I hear.

Lulu said...

yeah, the guerilla girls brought this up about 20 years ago, but really... what has changed??

Anonymous said...

An old New Yorker cartoon depicts a group of prehistoric women painting images on the wall of a cave. One of the women suddenly pauses in her work and asks: “Does it strike anyone as weird that none of the great painters have ever been men?” (Heller, 1987) ;-)

Sara Hart said...

Women and women's art are still segregated. It’s a women's art show rather then an art show, or labeled feminist regardless of the content of the art. Although I suppose being a woman you just are a feminist. And 'women of color' is almost always meant to represent [an] entire race, which can be good or bad or simply not meant for that. It’s one person’s expression…