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Latest 'Red Shoes' laced with more style
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN); 18th Jul 2002; Rohan Preston
In the wake of September's terrorist attacks, choreographer Myron Johnson unveiled a version of "The Red Shoes" that showcased his spunky creativity in an unlikely place: the dank, dusty Ritz Theatre in northeast Minneapolis.
The dance-theater work opened in a rainstorm, with the dancers gliding onstage like sprites, while buckets collected rainwater in the audience. The dance-among-the-ruins, such as it was, proved to be a moving experience.
Now Johnson has reprised "The Red Shoes" in a much more civilized setting,the artfully downscale Theatre de la Jeune Lune in Minneapolis. This staging corrects the two major problems of the earlier production: the scratchy, hard-to-follow voice track from the 1948 movie of the same title that was the basis for the narrative story and the distance that audience members felt from the stage, and thus, the show.
This revival has operatic actor Bradley Greenwald and dancer Julia Tehven admirably doing all the voice work, filling the room with cartoonish, sometimes clever drama. And the staging in the intimate Jeune Lune auditorium - raked so that we see the performers in a pit - allows us to fully take in Johnson's witty ideas and Michael Murnane's highly dramatic light shafts.
This "Red Shoes" has a much better sheen.
Based on the 1948 movie by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, a film which itself was a take on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, "The Red Shoes" is about a ballet dancer, Victoria Page, who gets admitted to a company. She snags the lead in a piece where she has to wear shoes that enable her to dance gloriously. But, as in the fairy tale, the footwear does not let her stop dancing. They claim her feet, if not her life.
The dance is about passion and perfection. It is also about love, as Vicky must choose between Boris, the impresario who runs the school (played again by Robert Skafte) and young composer Julian (Joel Klausler).
Stephanie Fellner, who played Vicky last year, has deepened in the role. The passion is still there. But where she once flitted with bat-like intensity, she now darts like a swallow. Her movements are continuous and graceful.
Choreographer Johnson has gone for the same playing style, marrying ballet with the silent era. Stephanie Karr-Smith, who plays a ballet master with a pencil-thin mustache, moves like a Chaplinesque figure. Skafte is imperious and slightly sinister, making his Boris a relative of the monsters played by Boris Karloff. And Zhauna Franks has a light, lovely touch as a prima ballerina in the company.
The action is enlivened by a live musical combo of violinist Gary Schulte and pianist Tom Linker, led by composer Craig Harris.
This "Red Shoes" revival benefits from open sightlines and a sense of intimacy that showcases the virtuosity of the dancers as they tell, in movement and mime, the story. It's a much better, much more exhilarating experience.
The Red Shoes
Who: Choreographed by Myron Johnson. Presented by Ballet of the Dolls.
When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday.
Where: Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 1st St. and 1st Av. N., Minneapolis.
Tickets: $10-$25. Call 612-333-6200.
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