“I Am That Horror”: The Vacant Spotlight in The Red Shoes (1948)

The Red Shoes ends with the tragic death of a ballerina, but the ballet goes on without her. More specifically, her shoes go on without her. We see a man waiting outside a green door on the stage. He pauses, so does the music, just as the door swings open. There is no one in the doorway. There should be. A pause. Then an empty spotlight moves from the house and into the courtyard, towards the other dancers, who sway awkwardly as though someone is standing in the light. The man jumps, following, with his hand outstretched, just grazing the spotlight, unable to find his partner in it. The light moves effortlessly, unlike the other sorry dancers on stage, still reeling from the tragedy of it all. It forms a sort of moon on the dusty painted cobblestones as it glides towards the shoe store, inside which is a pair of red pointe shoes. This moment, and the introduction it receives by Boris Lermontov, the company impresario, is one of the most profound sequences I’ve seen. My hand actually flew to my lips and stayed there, as I realized the ballet would go on without its star, but not by replacing her, by holding her spot and moving as though she were there. Like a ghost, and that feeling sank in me as the film reached its final note.

Victoria Page, or Vicky, might be a fallen woman, a literal kind in this case, but not in a traditional sense. Overwhelmed by the need to either choose love or dance, she flings herself off a balcony and down towards a moving train. This incidentally represents both of the imposing men in her life, as the balcony is where she and Julian Craster first stood and felt a connection, and Boris is often shown in a train, as like that vehicle, he is determined and on an unstoppable set course. Both lead to her downfall, once again a literal kind. The film is broadly about ambition, as each character has ambition that drives them to sacrifice something for their talent, whether that be a literal or metaphoric kind. Julian’s ambitious (well, foolish) note gets him a meeting and job with Boris, and throughout his time at the company, he arranges expensive rehearsals and changes the score, which angers people until they realize how talented he is. He realizes this too and sacrifices his wife’s career for his own in the later portion of the film.

Boris, meanwhile, is obsessed with transforming Vicky into the greatest ballerina of all time, whatever the personal or financial cost. He recognizes talent, and wants to cultivate it, but is willing to sacrifice those who fall in love with something other than that talent. Of course, Vicky is fixated with dance, not wealth exactly, but talent and glory. The reason Vicky meets Boris is because Vicky’s Aunt is a Lady and an established patron of the arts, Vicky has even vacationed with her in Monte Carlo before the events of the film, which means that Vicky is never at risk of become destitute, even when she and Julian leave the company. That is in stark contrast to other stereotypical fallen women, who usually become destitute at some point in their narratives and end up dying as a metaphor for poverty and moral inequity. Money is not important in this film, in fact, Boris even seems annoyed by the entire industry around ballet, not wanting to attend parties or take phone calls from avid patrons. This is a personal ambition, of pushing oneself to become something more significant and to feel that power, to be the best. Surprisingly, competition is not an issue in the film, at least between the artists.

“A Dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love can never a great dancer. Never.”

The film characterizes the audience as a vapid mob, for instance, we see in the opening scene a group of students burst into the balcony section, trampling one another and the ushers. This rush demonstrates two things; first, that the film will remove the ‘so-called’ classist and old fashioned ideal that most assume ballet arrives with, and second, that this audience is rude and almost working against the performance. Immediately after taking their seats, Julian and his classmates begin shouting wildly, stepping over other patrons, and even loudly chatting as the performance begins. Of course, Julian has a reason to talk, he has just realized that he is listening to his own stolen orchestration, but still. This group is too distracted to appreciate the ballet, which severely contrast Vicky, who sits calmy with a pair of opera glasses, barely looking over when her Aunt speaks, too entranced by the performance. She mirrors Boris, who sits on the other side of the theatre, tucked behind a large curtain, as though waiting for his own debut, and hiding from the rude audience.

Characters like Vicky label the audience as their enemy on several occasions, making it clear that dance is not about being popular or adored, there is a greater importance to it, an almost holy kind. Vicky says as much during a conversation with Julian, where he asks what she will imagine while dancing the “Red Shoes” ballet. She pauses, considers, and he goes on to ask if she will picture herself as a bird, cloud, or flower, three very feminine symbols, and she smiles, no. Instead, she will imagine “a war between me and the audience”, and that might also extend into the film’s audience. Vicky does appear as these feminine symbols during her routine, even briefly growing into a flower, but there is always something off-putting about these transformations. While Vicky might dwell in traditional feminine symbols, there is nothing passive to them here, and what’s more, only Vicky can see these symbols because she is the imagining and projecting them into her performance. The audience is barely involved in this routine, we don’t even see them, because everything depicted is happening in Vicky’s head, which explains why so many impossible things occur during it, like holograms and newspaper turning into men. Vicky’s dance is for herself and for those who are talented enough to recognize talent, not just simpletons who enjoy pretty dancing, as Boris implies but never directly characterizes in the film.

“For Me it is a religion. And one doesn’t really care to see one’s religion practiced in an atmosphere…such as this.”

In one notable sequence, Vicky dances at the small Mercury theatre, and it’s the first time Boris has properly seen her, the moment he becomes fixated with her talent. We get this incredible shot where Vicky twirls, and the camera twirls with her, and each time it swings back towards the audience, it closes in towards Boris, getting closer each go. Martin Scorsese later used this scene as inspiration for the wrestling match in Raging Bull (1980), in fact, The Red Shoes and Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell’s other masterpiece, The Tales of Hoffman (1950), are two of Scorsese’s favourite films, which might seem strange given how violent and dark Scorsese’s films often are, but there is a darkness to these films, beyond their beauty. It’s interesting that this camera swing and zoom became violent in Scorsese’s later film, because that development implies that there is a violence to it here, something Scorsese merely picked up on. The dance is an attack, this “war between me and the audience” that Vicky later characterizes it as, and the theatre, likewise, is a sacred space or battlefield but only to those who can see it. Take the name, Mercury, like the God of messengers and communication, between actor, story, and patron. This name, however, also relates to the planet, implying that performances at the Mercury theatre are out of this world. There is also mercury the poison, often found in hat, cosmetic, and medicine making in the prior Victorian era but continuing into the 20th century. Together, these references tell you exactly how figures like Vicky and Boris view this space and dance. The space is sacred because of the dancer, or their ability to communicate with score and movement, but it’s also toxic like mercury poison, as we later discover. Vicky might be targeting her ‘attack’ at Boris in this remarkable shot, but it’s not just about him. She is targeting anyone who might stand in her way, this audience, and proving that she understands the slightly violent undertones and rhetoric of this space, a language Boris also speaks, which is why he is so drawn to her. This whole composition is a way of showing that Vicky is talking to Boris through her performance, letting him know that she is just as ambitious and talented, and that he needs to recognize that. Vicky knows there is violence in herself and in her dancing, later stating “I am that horror” during a conversation with Julian. As such, the way she presents herself is just as ambitious and purposeful as her literal performance.

“Why do you want to live?”
“Well, I don’t know exactly why, but I must.”

During an early conversation between Vicky and Boris, he asks, “Why do you want to dance?”, and she replies, “Why do you want to live?”, foreshadowing Vicky’s later suicide by suggesting that having two things to live for, dance and love, is too much. One must choose. It also implies that talent cannot be possessed, even the talented person doesn’t own it. They live for dance, not themselves, like a religious oath. For example, when Julian first arrives at a rehearsal, it’s chaotic, so much so that he doesn’t know who to talk to. He asks a man who is standing on his head, “Who is in charge?”, and the man just looks at him and asks, “Of what?”. Boris might have executive control over the company, but the film argues that only goes so far. When Vicky chooses to leave the company to be with Julian, he is upset, but has no power to stop her. Her talent, and dance itself, operates outside of these figures, which is why he is so upset about Vicky walking away. It’s easy to read Boris’s feelings towards Vicky as romantic, and while it’s certainly intense and maybe falls into twisted romance in a few moments, there is something far more interesting going on. In the final confrontation between Julian, Boris, and Vicky, Julian cries, “You’re jealous of her”, to which Boris replies, “Yes, but in a way you will never understand”, a line I am still processing. I think it ultimately relates to the red shoes themselves, as Boris explains that, in the story, they never grow tired, as while “life rushes by…the red shoes dance on”. Talent is not about the person wearing the shoes, not even about the shoemaker, it’s about the shoes themselves, hence the title of the ballet and film: The Red Shoes. It’s an honour to be talented, but also a curse because your talent will always be more important than your personal happiness, at least in this film. When Julian realizes that his score has been stolen by his professor, Boris explains that “it is much more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from”, as at least Julian has talent, whereas Professor Palmer was desperate enough to steal, and will never be more than what he has carelessly stolen. Palmer even got some of the notes wrong in his hasty transcription, as Julian later discovers while conducting the ‘Professor’s opera’.

Boris repeatedly declares that there is “nothing but the music”, meaning the audience and even the body do not matter in comparison. Take the way he first describes the storyline of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes”, focusing on the “great agony” but brushing past the woman’s death, as though it’s not as interesting to him. When Vicky dies at the end of the film, he can’t announce it, instead stating that she will never dance again, and that is the true tragedy, hence her final performance goes on as though she were there, before the ballet is put away forever, never to be danced without her power. It’s unlike the relationship we see in Pressburger and Powell’s later film adaptation of The Tales of Hoffman, which actually appears in The Red Shoes during a montage of Vicky’s various performances. I have written about the Olympia automaton sequence before, but there are some differences between its depiction in the Red Shoes versus Hoffman. In the original ballet/opera, Olympia is an automaton, brought to life by a mischievous inventor who is trying to deceive Hoffman into marrying his ‘daughter’, this automaton. She performs her aria and dance, “Les oiseaux dans la charmille”, with inhuman perfection, until she breaks down and needs to be rewound while Hoffman is distracted. It’s a funny scene, mixing comedy with idealization, technology with God (hence the name Olympia). In Pressburger and Powell’s film, the comedy arrives solely from Olympia breaking down, and the inventor and his assistant desperately trying to wind her up without Hoffman noticing. Something different happens in The Red Shoes, even though actress Moira Shearer plays both Vicky and Olympia in these films, as this version of Olympia is teasing the inventor, mimicking and then stopping before he turns around. We don’t see Hoffman here, we don’t even see Olympia break down, it’s just her and the inventor, who like the shoemaker, is a reference to Boris. Olympia has a will of her own here, suggesting that Vicky is never just this automaton, driven by men and strict choreography, she is self aware.

“Time rushes by, love rushes by, life rushes by, but the Red Shoes go on.”

Vicky is one of the more interesting characters I’ve encountered in film, especially of this era. It’s hard to say how audiences might have interpreted her when the film was first released, because modern audiences arrive with entirely different biases. The Red Shoes is a tragedy, but where that tragedy stems says a great deal about you as an audience member. Yes, it’s a tragedy because she dies, but what specifically is tragic there? Is it because she never got to perform or because she didn’t get a happily ever after with Julian? Or is it because she wasn’t allowed to choose between these options? She couldn’t stop dancing, but she also didn’t want to stop. Vicky is a truly refreshing character, as is the fact that the film is talking about what it means to be an ambitious woman, something both Vicky and Boris are willing to fight for. The reason Boris becomes so infuriated anytime his lead ballerinas get married is not because he is in love with them, or because they become less of a dancer, it’s because they become too distracted as their husbands directly intervene with their talent. Men become the primary interest in these dancers’ life, not dance, and so the ballerinas sacrifice talent for personal life, rather than vice versa. Consider the era this film was released in, what getting married meant for a career woman, what people still assume when a woman gets married or starts a family. Being a housewife, to Boris, is a form of horrific suffocation and denial. When Vicky marries Julian, she stops dancing, only taking small roles in small theatres while her husband works on his next opera. His career comes before hers, as she chooses to quit Boris’s company after he is fired, and then chooses to support him while his opera is performed at the Covent Garden in London. She even has the radio on in her dressing room while getting ready for her return performance, clearly guilty about not being there, but still wanting to have her own career. He has the audacity to be upset by her performing, which just proves Boris’s point, as it’s clear that Vicky is unhappy. The two are even sleeping in separate beds, although that might just be because of the era, like how couples in TV shows were always shown sleeping separately.

It’s interesting that Julian’s opera is a version of “Cupid and Psyche”, which is essentially an early version of “Beauty and the Beast”, where Psyche, a beautiful young princess is forced to marry a monster and is taken away from her family to a great mansion, where she finds that her husband is perfectly lovely but invisible. Driven by her sister’s anxieties, Psyche decides to hold a candle up one night while he is asleep, to check what he looks like, and realizes that her husband is not some creature, but in fact the God of Desire and Erotic Love, Cupid. When she accidentally drips some wax on him, he wakes up and retreats, and so the rest of the myth focuses on Psyche’s quest to win back her husband through a series of dangerous tasks set by the great Aphrodite. The first line of that summary is particularly noteworthy here, as Julian does take Vicky away from her family, and we only see them in this strange mansion, where Vicky wakes up and her husband has retreated to his piano, composing this opera. But rather than dripping wax or driving him away, she sees what he is and what they have become, and instead goes home to her family, the production company. She doesn’t become Psyche, even though that is what Julian has labeled her as in this opera, as she is his muse. She is not living for him, like Psyche does for Cupid, as the myth ends with Psyche completing her quest and then never trusting her family again, instead living forever in this palace. Vicky is ready to live for music again, and so the candle Psyche holds becomes the very candle we see bookending the film, representing Vicky’s life, not just her relationship with Julian.

“Not even the best magician in the world can produce a rabbit out of a hat if there is not already a rabbit in the hat.”

Boris is presented as a sort of Mephistopheles figure; a harsh devil who tempts people to sell their souls for music, a sort of Phantom of the Opera dynamic. He dresses all in black, very stylized, that way he stands out in the crowd, but he isn’t necessarily wrong or evil like Mephistopheles. Even though Vicky describes him as a “gifted cruel monster” in a letter, she returns shortly after and shows genuine affection for him. He is also far more heartbroken by her leaving than the earlier prima donna, suggesting that while he may be in love with her, to some degree, he is more in love with what she could become, again ambition overwhelms everything in this film. He doesn’t control her though, rather, he is the shoemaker, just giving her the opportunity to dance. Their dynamic is also not sexualized, not traditionally at least, as he insists on several occasions, “I know nothing of her charms, I could care less”, because if he is in love with her, or jealous as he later states, it’s not because of who she is but what she is capable of. Both her and his ambition are united here. The reason he dislikes Julian so strongly, even when he is repeatedly told that the boy has talent and that he should not have fired him, is because Julian is trying to control Vicky’s talent, or rather, he is placing his own talent above hers rather than combining them. As Julian’s muse, she is subject to his work, rather than a collaboration, which is what Boris initially wanted, hence why he paired the two during production.

Much like Phantom of the Opera and Faust, the film wants us to impose the story of “Red Shoes” ballet onto the one we are watching, as the same events that happen in the ballet also happen to the actors. It’s not a matter of these worlds collapsing onto one another mid-film, more than they have always been collapsed and interconnected because figures like Vicky are actively aligning themselves with their characters. For instance, Vicky puts on the red shoes while in her dressing room before the confrontation, even though, as we know from the previous performance, she is supposed to put them on during the performance. Is this to stretch them? Are they on her feet or is this in Vicky’s mind, much like that earlier performance? Julian later removes them when she is on the train tracks, so they are probably real, and I think it’s a matter of Vicky performing as the character to understand her current dilemma.

Both Vicky and her character are fixated with dance, these red shoes, or the ability and freedom to dance, and it’s wonderful at first, love grows from it. But then the dream becomes horrific, like the carnival in the ballet, where things literally fall apart, the dancers collapse and even chase after her, and then the character performs a duet with her love, who grows from a stack of newspapers. Suddenly she and her love are wearing outfits made from newspapers, before he disappears, suggesting that both Vicky and Julian are struggling with fame and love, before the character returns home and finds that the shoes are preventing her from stopping. She cannot stay with her mother (or Vicky’s Aunt), and she cannot stay with her love, nor even the shoemaker who cannot control the shoes, even though he leads her away. When she finally collapses, rejected from society, she asks her love to remove the shoes so that she can be free, mirroring the end of the film when the fairy tale comes true, and Vicky asks Julian to remove her shoes so she can die. The shoes, however, don’t disappear, as we then cut back to the theatre, where the actor playing the shoemaker clings to them before the curtain rises, holding the cloth to his face as he cries. This shot is juxtaposed with Boris crying as he announces that Vicky will not be dancing, nor ever again, suggesting that the shoemaker is a victim, just like the dancer. He was compelled to make the shoes, and compelled to pass them along, which is why the ballet ends with him offering the shoes to the audience, inviting them to become the next dancer, regardless of the cost. More on that shortly.

“You can’t alter human nature.”
“No? I think you can do even better then that. You can ignore it!”

The colour red appears throughout the film, often through Vicky, as she has red hair, is typically shown wearing red lipstick, and always has red eye makeup while performing, usually in the corners. As I discussed in my Green Knight (2021) post, red has certain connotations, as it’s a rather loud colour, an ambitious one if you will. It relates to lust, love, anger, warmth, blood, along with countless other things. The shoes are red because that stands out, which the original tale criticizes, and so by wearing red normally, and being the only person to do so, Vicky is already playing with this commentary even before wearing the shoes. I think she does this on purpose, as she is depicted as a very purposeful force, someone who is determined to get a role, to be on stage, to be perfect. Whereas a film like Black Swan (2010), another ballet narrative, initially tries to separate good and bad through the colours white and black, like the white and black swans, it eventually argues that these two are not easily separated, and we find that here. Red is multiple things at once, both warm and bloody. Along with the colour red, Vicky is clearly drawing herself in comparison to fairy tales, even appearing in a crown on two separate occasions. One of the reasons for Vicky’s visual language is because ballet is nonverbal, as there is “nothing but the music”, and so every visual and colour is intentional, another tool to tell the story.

The ballet we see in The Red Shoes is impossible; the shoes move on their own, Vicky dances with a reflection of herself that moves like a hologram, essentially, all of it is in Vicky’s head, it’s how she views the story. Vicky and Julian discuss this during a lunchtime meeting, where he insists that her movement, when timed correctly, will inform the audience that she is at a ball. It doesn’t matter if the stage looks like a ballroom, she will be enough of a visual to show that the ballroom is in the music, which is exactly what happens during the performance, as we see what Vicky is imagining in the music, not want is literally happening in the performance. This gives Vicky immense power, she takes on the role of director during this sequence, and that is especially apparent as we see parts of the ballet again at the end of the film, but they are lackluster without Vicky’s influence. The shoes no longer come to life. Compare that to Tales of Hoffman, which operates through this impossible fantasy logic throughout the opera, never becoming a realistic film as The Red Shoes is. As such, Tales of Hoffman is always under Pressburger and Powell’s direction, no character steps forward and is revealed to be the creator or master of what we are seeing, because the universe just exists this way. It’s sort of like the difference between nude and naked in art, which I discuss at length in my Hoffman piece. To be nude is a state, without any politics, whereas being naked implies the subject has taken off their clothes, which gets into a whole moral debate. Hoffman is nude art, the politics there are not from the characters, they aren’t directly discussing them, and they never question what is happening in this strange operatic world as there is nothing realistic to compare it with. By contrast, The Red Shoes is about putting on and taking off the shoes, about considering what each state means and why someone like Vicky would switch between or be conflicted. It’s all purposeful, not just a natural state, and figures like Vicky, Boris, and Julian are actively having these debates.

“Oh, in the end, she dies.”

Is there a moral to the film, as there is with the original Andersen fairy tale? The film is a tragedy, that much is certain. There is no music with the final credits, as though everything artistic and good ends with the ballet and Vicky’s death. Andersen’s tale is different than the ballet adaptation, as the original text is about a young woman who becomes too distracted by her own beauty and independence that she forsakes God. She begins wearing the shoes shortly after her mother’s death, which clashes with the black mourning gear, and she cannot stop thinking about the shoes, even though they are too showy for a proper girl. The woman becomes obsessed and abandons her caregiver, who shortly after dies, and later realizes she cannot stop dancing. Unlike the ballet, the tale ends after the girl asks an executioner to cut off her feet, which continue to dance without her, and then she eventually dies after being welcomed back into the church. The moral there is that one shouldn’t be proud or stand apart, because it distracts from what is important. It’s not officially about ambition, although that reading certain works in the film’s version. I am not sure that the film is entirely critical of Vicky’s ambition, but I am very biased. I think it is celebrating it, to a degree, yet is critical of both Boris and Julian, as each lead to Vicky’s death. Again, it’s clear that the much later Black Swan film was inspired by this one, as both end with a ballerina’s death, but notably, Black Swan ends with Nina choosing to dance whereas Vicky cannot choose because she has to dance, yet also cannot live with what that will do. You could read the ending of The Red Shoes with a supernatural twist, as she is wearing the red shoes, and that stops her from deciding between love and music, choosing death instead, but I prefer the non-supernatural option. I mention it this reading because I am sure plenty of people favour it, although I am not sure it’s any less dark.

The Red Shoes is not as critical as Andersen’s tale, as it shows us how powerful and happy Vicky is on stage. I would argue that the film is asking us to criticize Boris and Julian more than Vicky for forcing her to choose, although I kind of agree with Boris. Maybe that says something about me, but when Vicky chooses to leave the production company, Boris allows her to and only seeks her out after waiting a year and then finding out she was traveling, alone, right before her husband’s premiere, suggesting that she and Julian were not getting along. Julian, meanwhile, abandons his premiere and storms to Vicky, blaming her for making him miss his show. They have entirely different approaches, which is so interesting because most stories which pit music/talent and love as opposites (as there can only be one true love), like in Phantom of the Opera, here, love is confrontational whereas music is respectful, sort of.

“What do you want from life? To live?”
“To dance.”

The ballet ends as the shoemaker steps forward, holding the red shoes to the audience, offering them to the next would-be star. We see this twice in the film, first during Vicky’s big debut, and then again at the end of the film, with new tragic meaning. The shoes first represent excitement and wonder, all the skill Vicky and her dream possess. The second time we see this closing moment, however, we see a shaking shoemaker, as though tormented by what has happened but still driven to pass along the shoes, knowing what they will do. Just as the ballerina in the ballet is unable to stop dancing once she puts on the red shoes, so too is the shoemaker unable to stop this cycle. It’s different than the fairy tale, where the shoes and feet stay together as the ballerina dies. Here, the shoes wait for a new host, yet at the same time, the film and Boris argues that no one will ever dance this role again. The film ends with this strange contradiction of offering the shoes but also suggesting that no one can replace Vicky, not even to fill in this final spotlight. I think it’s interesting that the film somewhat implies that Boris is in love with Vicky, especially as he introduces an empty spotlight, because it threatens his own rule of “nothing but the music” and suggests that each character is cursed by a ‘red shoe’ situation of music versus personal, not just Vicky. It’s why Boris cannot move on after Vicky leaves the company, even though everyone else seems to, and he was able to move on when the other lead left earlier in the film. Something else is going on here, once again implying that this struggle extends beyond Vicky, beyond dance, and beyond this film. The actor playing the shoemaker is upset, just as the character is, and Boris, who the character represents. It’s a triptych of grief shared by character, actor, and Boris, for what has been lost, what will be, what could have been, and the cursed nature of the whole unending enterprise. The camera moves towards him in this finale, growing in this eerie way towards his bleary eyes and the red curtain. That difficult red. It’s heartbreaking, as is the shot shortly after where we see him sitting alone in the balcony, watching the ballet while its dancer dies out front.

The film poses a question: would you take the shoes? Is tragedy worth this freedom and skill given what you have just seen? I think it’s ultimately left to the audience, as the film’s moral is not nearly as evident as the original tale’s, which outlines its lesson at the very end, like many fairy tales. Although Boris declares that the “Red Shoes” ballet will never be performed without Vicky, following this strange and ghostly tribute, yet the cycle of talent, love, and tragedy will continue, hence the shoemaker’s shaky stance. At the very least, the film is not overtly critical of Vicky as Andersen’s tale is, and that is refreshing. The film ends with the candle we saw in the opening credits burning low and then out, but notably, the entire candle has burned, it’s already at the base. It’s not that Vicky’s life was cut early, her ambition and this system only had one outcome, so her life was always going to be that short, at least according to this candle shot. The red shoes are just a symbol for this cycle, we even see Boris picking which shoes Vicky will use on stage, just to emphasize that the shoes are not as mystical as they are inside the ballet. It’s just a random pair of ballet shoes that Vicky attributes meaning to, at least in her dream sequence during that debut, where the shoes literally come to life and coil onto her posed feet. But once again, the film ends with this ambiguous moral, where you can judge any of the characters, yet that judgement is not required. We just end with that vacant spotlight, gliding across the stage, further proving that Vicky’s talent exists beyond her. We can still picture the routine as we saw it during that earlier sequence, so we fill in the blank. While Vicky and the “Red Shoes” ballet will never perform again, there will always be other ballet, other talent, but each is uniquely tormented by this balance of personal and performance.