The Red Shoes

The headlines of the NYTimes article caught my eye. It read “A Tragic Ballerina Dances Again, Her Shoes Now Redder Than Ever.” On the eve of the re-release of The Red Shoes, Manohla Dargis Dargis stated that it is “Widely deemed the most famous ballet film ever made,…and  has been the inspiration for countless bleeding feet and soaring artistic passions since its release” in 1948.

Reading the article, I suddenly recalled my own Red Shoes tragedy. As a child who took tap, ballet, character and point classes from ages 3-14, I was a frequent tap soloist at the annual three night Lally School of Ballet Tap and Toe dance recitals in my hometown of Holyoke, Massachusetts . The recital, held in a junior high school auditorium, was an endless parade of eager, overly excited children, adoring moms, and bored dads in what was for me the unequivocal highpoint of my year. I had stockpiles of costumes and many opportunities to shine in multiple tap solos which transported me from a small grey industrial New England city  to heights of tantalizing grandeur.

Tap on toe was still a popular novelty act in the recitals of the 1940’s, a holdover from vaudeville days. For one solo, I was to wear bright red pointe shoes, Holyoke’s own tribute to The Red Shoes.  The choreography was bland and far too simplified for my high standards, but when performed on pointe it was all I could handle.

As I changed costumes and prepared for my 3rd or 4th solo of the night, I suddenly found myself struggling to put on the red shoes.  I kept trying to squeeze them on, not understanding that they were hopelessly shrunken as a result of the dye process!  I was distraught, as my mother gently but firmly tried to convince me that the only thing I could do was perform the tap on toe in my regular tap shoes. Ultimately, I ate humble pie and went on stage, my eyes swollen from crying, without my beautiful red shoes. I performed a simple, boring tap solo.  Alas, I doubt that anyone in the audience knew the difference and how I was suffering from my own private humiliation and tragedy with the infamous red shoes.

(Any other red shoe stories we should know about?)

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