I first heard about the 1948 film The Red Shoes at Elena Maria Vidal’s Tea at Trianon. It’s based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of the same name. It’s about a young girl who sees a pair of red shoes in a shop window, and is offered them by the demonic shoemaker. She puts them on, and dances around, tirelessly. When she does get tired, she cannot rest because the shoes will not stop dancing. She eventually dies because she can’t rest.
In the film, the woman who plays the part of the lead in the ballet of the same name (which makes her famous), falls in love with the music director. She is given an ultimatum by the ballet company head: You choose him or dance. She left the company to be with her love and still danced in other companies. Later on, she is talked into returning to the same company, where she can finally dance the lead in “The Red Shoes” again. Trying to get her to come back to him and leave the company, her husband goes into her dressing room just before the show begins. The ballet company director finds them and tells her that this time she will never be welcomed back if she leaves the company. She has to choose again. She is distraught, and can’t makeup her mind. Her husband senses his defeat and leaves. As she is walking down the hallway to the stage to begin the show, she stops and runs out to call to her husband. She runs and runs and eventually runs out onto a balcony and either jumps or falls over it. Her husband, who was on his way to the train station nearby, sees her, and tries to run to her. He sees her landing in front of a train. Just as she is lying here, dying, she tells him to take off her red shoes.
This made me think a lot tonight about life and love and career. I’m not currently in a relationship, and I’m all right with that. I know that eventually I would like to be married, if not have a child or two. But I also know that as I continue to develop my voice and do more performing, there may come a time where I have to choose. My problem is that I’m not 20 anymore. I can’t wait 10 years to develop my singing career knowing that I’ll have another 10 during which I can have a family. But I’m not in a rush. I am just thinking about having to make that choice between love and a career. The theme that I took away from the movie was that at some point there will come a point at which you will have to make a decision between a career and love/family. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have both. But if one intends to become a world-class artist, develop one’s technique, and travel the world auditioning, performing, etc., then perhaps you cannot have both. (I know there are talented people who are world class and also have families. But they are the exception and not the rule.)
Have you ever had to make such a choice? Did you choose your red shoes or not? Do you ever wonder what it would have been like had you chosen the other way?