(8/4/00 9:49:12 am)
|Dancing to death|
Good morning all. I'm working on a rendition of "The Red Shoes" and wanted to post on the topic of this fairy tale to get some feedback. I found the discussion on the swan stories quite helpful -- so here we go again. I find the idea of red shoes quite fascinating and have tied my first draft to the Burning Man festival in Nevada. Is anyone familiar with the festival? It is an underground arts festival held in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada (actually Black Rock). I thought that the complete abandon and overt sexuality paired nicely with the image of red shoes (snakeskin in my tale). The festival attracts artists, nudists, pagans, moonies -- all sorts actually and they build a city up around the figure of a wooden man. He stands about six stories high and is packed full of magnesium, glow sticks and fireworks. (Sound like some old Northern European traditions?) At the climax of the festival the some 20-30,000 people hold a procession through the streets and then gather at his feet to watch as he is set to flame. I can just see the shoes taking their red hue from all of the women over the ages they've seduced and encouraged to dance their feet off. The blood staining the shoes and the white sand take on a whole intimate meaning when you take into account the pure sexuality of shoes. The foot becomes a phallic symbol and the shoe the recipient. The blood brings to mind the loss of virginity or perhaps menstration -- both very traumatic life changes in a woman's life.
I have a clipping that I just came across in my files that discussed the links of the European dancing tradition -- the Dancing Procession of Echternach, which began in Luxembourg. In the Dec. 10, 1999 issue of "Neurology" Dr. Krack realted the procession to the neurological disease -- St. Vitus' chorea -- aka the dancing disease. For some reason I'm wondering if this could have something to do with the Red Shoes story -- what do you think? The procession dates back to the 8th century. The condition causes abnormal involuntary movements in the afflicted. They would dance to the grave of St. Willibrord in hopes of being healed. I'm also taking into consideration the fact that during the 14th century Christians and pagan Europeans danced to seek protection form the Black Plague. (Danse Macabre anyone?) In the study Krack theorizes that the dancing would lead to outbreaks of hysteria, which is attributed to chorea. They suggest that singing, dancing and laughing taking place during these emotionally charged events had an influence on brain functions. "Emotion, behavior and movement systems are tightly linked in the brain," said Krack. "On a smaller scale, think of the elation that a person feels while dancing, singing and laughing at a party."
Wow -- that got to be a bit long. So anyhow, I could really use some feedback. Any comments? Thoughts on the story and how it affected you in its original form? In retellings? Images? Feelings evoked?
(8/4/00 2:23:07 pm)
|Re: Dancing to death|
Ok, as a dancer, a podiatric patient, and former podiatric assistant, I HAVE to reply to this one!
I actually just went to read the story and it's not what I always thought it was about! I thought it was merely about a girl who couldn't stop dancing when she wore these red shoes- not that it was deadly! I thought it had a happier ending! It actually reminded me a bit of "The Girl Without Hands".
Here are some other ways I relate to it:
12 Dancing Princesses- where 12 sister princesses are cursed to dance all night, every night, their shoes worn out in the morning.
Giselle- The Willis are young women who were left at the altar and died of broken hearts. They gather at night and capture unsuspecting young men, making them dance to their deaths- now there's a twist on the story!
A similar encounter is in the Snow White tales where the queen is made to dance in "red-hot" iron shoes until she dies.
Hans Christian Anderson- I believe in the film, he falls in love with a beautiful ballerina and makes her a pair of red ballet slippers.
Not much, I know. If you like I can tell you about my exploits as
a dancer and podiatric surgical patient, then working for that doctor
and trying to dance again. Let me know if anyone is interested.
(8/5/00 2:17:31 pm)
On the subject of shoes and mutilation, don't forget Cinderella's two sisters, who mutilate their feet in order to force them into her shoe. Also Chinese foot-binding, and modern fetish footware. I recently was asked to make a pair of fetish high-heels (I'm a 3d modeler), and the artist introduced me to the high-heel fetish culture. I had no idea that shoes like this even existed... 7 and 8 inch heels, which force the woman onto her toes like a ballerina. The aesthetic struck me very much as having to do with crippling the woman; the photos he showed me are of women desperately clinging to furniture, unable to move even a few steps, with huge, grotesque, swollen black things encasing the lower ends of their legs - similar in effect to a cast.
Off topic, it's been a while since I visited this board; it's turned into a really cool place to be!
(8/6/00 2:45:31 am)
Welcome back, Allie!
Your comment reminded me of the fact that one of the earliest known Cinderella stories comes from ancient China -- where, of course, the small, broken, useless feet created by the practice of foot-binding were the epitome of feminine beauty.
(8/6/00 7:21:24 am)
There's currently an article called "Rethinking the Dancing Mania" by Robert E. Bartholomew on *The Arts & Letters Daily* at: www.cyberedtions.com/aldaily/
which discusses the St. Vitus dance and a bit about raves, as well.
(8/8/00 12:29:34 am)
What an interesting article. Ellen, how on earth did you find it?
(8/8/00 11:52:58 am)
First, There's a short story by Emily Prager called "A Visit to the Footbinder" that may be of interest to you. You can find it in her collection of the same name (Vintage Contemporaries).
Also, George Balanchine staged a version of "Tarantella," probably in the late 1950s, which is a dancing-to-death tale, correct? I believe it is available on video through Facets. Incidentally, if you're interested in modern dance's incorporation of folktales in general, you could take a look at an essay by Sally Banes called "Happily Ever After: The Postmodern Fairytale and the New Dance"; it's in WRITING DANCING from Wesleyan University Press. Folklore has been of great interest to modern choreographers from Balanchine on, including Mark Morris, who actually staged Barthes' MYTHOLOGIES and Kinematic who did a breathtaking punk version of "The Snow Queen." I know your focus is far more precise than that, but I just wanted to mention this in case it interests you further (of course you may already be well aware of all this).
Do you mean "Yeh-hsien" (850 or so A.D.)? A version appears in Tatar's Norton Edition.
(8/8/00 1:04:35 pm)
|ooooo- Balanchine and Dancing to Death!|
It may be a longshot, but you might want to look at Gelsey Kirkland's *Dancing On My Grave* about her life as a Balanchine dancer and how he told them "not eat less" but "eat nothing" (I think those were the quotes). Basically, her and many other ballerina's have taken the profession of dance so seriously that they are killing themselves for their love, for approval, for art. Now *there's* an interesting twist on The Red Shoes theme!
(8/9/00 12:14:57 am)
Ah, bless you Kate, I was trying to think of the title of that Emily Praeger story and couldn't remember it. It's a gem. And yes, that's the Cinderella variant I was thinking of.
(8/9/00 12:16:07 am)
I meant "Emily Prager," sorry.
(8/9/00 10:00:39 am)
Thank you for all of the wonderful suggestions and replies. I finished my rough draft this morning and it's a much richer piece for all of your input. Thanks, thanks, thanks....
Now on to the next one.