Red Shoes or Legs of Fire

Concept and Choreography by Flemming Flindt
Story of the ballet

The full-evening work blends elements of the Hans Christian Anderson tale "The Red Shoes" and the 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressurger film of the same name with a portrayal of the short and dramatic life of Danish ballerina Elna Lassen. Lassen was one of the most talented dancers of the 1920s in Europe and a beloved principal of the Royal Danish Ballet until she took her own life at the age of twenty-nine.

The central character of the story is Ella, a beautiful young girl who is introduced to the world of ballet by her manic mother who at one time dreamed of being a dancer herself. Ella excels in class where all her teachers vie for her talent. After graduating, Ella goes off to look for work and meets the charming, flirtatiously seductive Dr. Mann who introduces her to the world of fashion and glamour and presents her with her first pair of red shoes. Ellaís career, stage-managed by Dr. Mann, soars and she becomes the darling of the press and public. Her relationship with Dr. Mann, however, is less certain. He is a faithless lover and Ella is no match for her rival, the cold and elegant Lady W. When Ella has an unsettling performance at a local music hall, her spirits tumble. She finds herself on the verge of collapse, physically and mentally. Dr. Mann persuades her to make a comeback tour but he places her in a venue that ill-suits her classical talents. After a second disastrous performance experience, Ella retreats to Dr. Mannís apartment. She dresses in his clothes, lies down on the bed and shoots herself with a small revolver. The final scene of the ballet takes place at her funeral. Ellaís mourners include the press, her fans, grieving ballet artists, and a young girl who plays at gathering red rose petals to decorate her little white ballet shoes.


ACT ONE

Scene 1: The School Playground
The young schoolgirl Ella makes a flying entry into the playground, where she is welcomed enthusiastically by her friends. She is a natural focus in both work and games, but she also likes to seek out dreaming solitude. After school she is fetched by her parents.

Scene 2: Ella's Home
At home with Mother and Father, Ella loves to express herself in her own imaginative natural dance. Ellaís mother wants her to take lessons in the fine art of ballet.

Scene 3: The Dancing School and Different Forms of Artistic Expression
On the first day in the training studio, Ella experiences show dancing, ballet and ragtime. The singing teacher, schoolmaster and ballet teacher all vie for Ellaís talent. In the end Ella chooses ballet.

Scene 4: Ella meets Dr. Mann
After graduating, Ella goes off to look for work and meets the experienced, affluent Dr. Mann, who offers his assistance.

Scene 5: The Fashion Show
Ella is at a fashion show with Dr. Mann and can choose whatever she wants. She is delighted by the beautiful pair of red shoes that Dr. Mann brings her. Before the eyes of the audience, Ella turns into a captivating ballet and show dancer. The press is wild about the new star. From the audience, the burning eyes of Lady W. are fixed on Dr. Mann.

Scene 6: The Train Station
Ella is on her way to the opera house, pursued enthusiastically by paparazzi and fans. She is asked to demonstrate a few dance movements and pose for photographs. As she exits the train station Lady W. again meets Dr. Mann, who invites her to sit in his box during Ella's performance.

Scene 7: The Opera House
Ella receives ovations and acclaim for her performance in the opera house.

Scene 8: The Music Hall
  Dr. Mann has arranged for Ella to sing and dance at a music hall. Apart from the ballet, in which Ella is supreme, she is on thin ice. She can only sing a little, and surrounded by superficial circus and variety numbers, her art cannot capture the attention of the jaded audience.
  Dr. Mann arrives with Lady W. during Ellaís performance. After her unsuccessful performance, and seeing Dr. Mannís indifference to her, Ella leaves the stage, and the audience resumes their dancing. In the end only Dr. Mann and Lady W. remain, dancing and embracing.
  Ella, who is on the verge of collapse, sees the couple leave in the distance, and throws the red shoes away. Suddenly, the flaming Legs of Fire stands before her, and invites her to dance. With her authority and charm she manipulates the terrified Ella, who flees, leaving the stage to the showgirls, headed by Legs of Fire.

ACT TWO

Scene 9: Ellaís and Dr. Mannís Bedroom
Ella is alone in the home she shares with Dr. Mann. Anxious and depressed, she falls into a deep sleep and dreams of her parents, her old room and her early childhood. The flaming-red Legs of Fire appears, too, as a disturbing figure in her dream. Dr. Mann comes home late at night and sneaks into their bedroom. There he finds a pair of red ballet shoes which he puts on the feet of the sleeping Ella. The despairing young woman wakes up and to her horror sees the red shoes on her feet. She tears them off and throws them after him. One more Dr. Mann persuades he that she can make a comeback--and out come the fine clothes. Ella is to dance again; perhaps not at the best places, but dance she must and dance she will.

Scene 10: A Tavern -- The Big Comeback
A makeshift dance ensemble has been put together as a setting for Ellaís comeback to the stage. A crowd of notabilities welcomes the group, and Dr. Mannís impresario introduces Ella. Ella does her most beautiful and original dance, but the setting and the audience are far from appropriate. Misunderstood, Ella has to give up and leave the city, ill and broken-down. Dr. Mann and Lady W. only arrive after the dance ensemble has left, but are welcomed enthusiastically by the public. It is a festival day in the city, and the join in the celebration.

Scene 11: Dr. Mannís Bedroom
Ella visits Dr. Mannís apartment. In his bedroom she dresses up in his clothes, remembering the good times they had together. Broken down in body and mind, she has strange visions. Dr. Mann, Lady W. and the Legs of Fire capture her. Death is her last resort. She lies down on the bed with a pistol and shoots herself.

Scene 12: Ellaís Funeral
Ellaís audience gathers around her bier. Dr. Mann and Lady W. are frozen out and have to leave the church. All that remain are the grieving ballet artists, while the smiling Legs of Fire appears to a little girl who plays at gathering red rose petals to color her little ballet shoes.

Red Shoes / Legs of Fire - photos
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