As a child, many of us spent hours upon hours daydreaming of the day when we would be allowed to begin dancing in those iconic, those wonderful, fantastic, amazing special shoes worn by grownup ballerinas: pointe shoes. As a child, the idea of dancing on pointe was, in our minds, synonymous with a surreal fantasy world where we would be able to float on air. And to some extent, pointe shoes do give those who wear them well a surreal appearance onstage. What small children dreaming of pointe shoes and floating on air don't have any concept of is the very, very involved relationship that most professional dancers form with their shoes. And just like human relationships, this relationship has it's decided up's and down's, triumphs and failures, (blisters, bunions, bruises and ice baths?), joys, and challenges. This week, ahead of our full program at Dance Chicago on Wednesday, November 19, Ballet 5:8 Artistic Director Julianna Slager is putting the finishing touches on one of the newest pieces of our repertoire. Musings...Or Don't Take Yourself So Seriously, has been coming to life slowly but steadily over the course of the past few weeks. The ballet takes a humorous look at the art form of ballet itself by digging beyond the onstage persona of a ballet dancer and revealing some of the joys and struggles of a life spent in ballet - including the joys and struggles of shoes.
Lovingly named Pas de Shoe, one of Musings' movements to come to life in the studio most recently takes the famous, largely romantic component of a classical ballet, a pas de deux, and re-writes the classic story in light of the main character's relationship with her pointe shoes. The shoes are an absolutely necessary thing for a dancer - but will she ever find the right shoe, a shoe that actually fits? With several lighthearted nods to notable moments from famous classical ballets, Pas de Shoe pays homage to the struggle that all ballet dancers face as they wonder whether their starving-artists' pocketbook can afford to get special-order shoes directly from Freed of London, or if they will forever be stuck in random dance stores, hoping that one of the same shoes they have tried on ten other times will somehow finally fit.
At last, Prince Charming makes his appearance! Clear the stage! A magnificent pas de deux is obviously in order. But wait....was that just a pair of pointe shoes?