Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment, straight from Southern California.
Hosted by John Horn
Airs Weekdays at 3:30 p.m.
Arts & Entertainment

Choreographer Matthew Bourne says 'Red Shoes' is more theater than ballet




Ashley Shaw in Matthew Bourne’s production of “The Red Shoes.” “The Red Shoes” will be presented by Center Theatre Group and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center at the Ahmanson Theatre September 15 through October 1, 2017. For season tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4444. Press Contact: CTGMedia@CTGLA.org / (213) 972-7376. Photo by Johan Persson.
Ashley Shaw in Matthew Bourne’s production of “The Red Shoes.” “The Red Shoes” will be presented by Center Theatre Group and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center at the Ahmanson Theatre September 15 through October 1, 2017. For season tickets and information, please visit CenterTheatreGroup.org or call (213) 972-4444. Press Contact: CTGMedia@CTGLA.org / (213) 972-7376. Photo by Johan Persson.
JOHAN PERSSON

Listen to story

11:08
Download this story 8.0MB

British director and choreographer Matthew Bourne has won an astounding amount of awards for his work, and he was recently knighted for his “service to dance.”

Bourne has made a career out of adapting popular movies, novels and operas into dance productions. He’s probably best known for his version of “Swan Lake,” which featured a bevy of male swans, but he’s also adapted Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands" and novels like “Lord of the Flies.”

Though Bourne's productions involve no acting - at least not through speaking - they usually follow the story of the original pretty closely. Which is why critics find it difficult to assign a genre:

People refer to this as a ballet. I don't really think it's a ballet. I think it's a piece of theater. But people's idea of what ballet is is very different. So for some people, it's tutus and pointe shoes and "Swan Lake." And for other people, it is just a story told without words, through movement. So definitions have always been an issue with me.

Bourne's newest work is an adaptation of the 1948 film, “The Red Shoes,” which is at the Ahmanson Theatre until October 1. The choreographer recently joined the Frame's John Horn in studio to discuss the show's development and the tricky process of adapting beloved works.

Below are excerpts from John Horn's interview with Bourne. To hear the full conversation, click on the player above or get The Frame's podcast on iTunes.

Interview Highlights

How being a self-taught dancer shapes his work: 

Bourne: I didn't get into dance - I mean ballet and contemporary dance - until late teens. Before that I was a big theater lover and a movie lover. And I was a self-taught dancer. I think that period of time before I learned more about that sort of dance is still feeding into the work I'm doing now. I think if I started dance when I was very young, the subject matter of my work would be dance and movement invention. Whereas for me, it's much more about storytelling and I think that's my connection with audiences really, is that my likes and my passions are a bit similar to theirs, to the wider audience. I love movies and I love great theater, and that's what I'm trying to do.

On assigning his dancers homework:

Bourne: I had the good fortune of working with some great theater directors early on in my career - Trevor Nunn, Richard Eyre. And I learned a lot through how they worked with actors in the musical theater that I did. And I kind of brought those ideas to my dance productions, so I get them to do lots of research. And Trevor's idea was always that there are no small characters, that everyone had a life story and a fully-rounded character no matter how small the part. So they all do research. They research the era and they write their life stories. So they know who they are, who they like, who they don't like, who they've had formerly had relationships with. There's a whole history with them and the other characters as well that makes the whole thing a lot richer.

 

On sharing his adaptations with the creators of the originals:

Bourne: It's daunting obviously. I think Tim [Burton] found it very difficult. To be honest - I can say this after all these years - I think he found it a bit surreal coming to watch another version of "Edward Scissorhands," which was so close to him... It came from him very much. But obviously with "Red Shoes," there's hardly anyone left, if anyone, who was involved with it. But we've met a lot of the daughters of, the sons of, [like] the son of Jack Cardiff, the cinematographer. Two of Moira Shearer's daughters have been. One 93-year-old lady came to see us in Cardiff, who was the last surviving dancer in the "Red Shoes" ballet. So we did meet one cast member.

How music from 'Citizen Kane' made it into the show:

Bourne: It's romantic, but there's always a question mark there. It never totally goes there. It's always a little bittersweet, a little discordant at times. It creeps in... But it also has that sense of this dream that someone's trying to achieve, and crushed dreams as well. It's one of the great pleasures of this piece, is this score that we've managed to pull together from some of [Bernard] Herrmann's great scores. But it's never been danced to before. It's never been heard theatrically before. It feels like a discovery and I feel very proud to sort of be introducing it to people in many ways.

Horn: I had no idea there was dance music in "Citizen Kane."

Bourne: Absolutely, it's full of dance music. 

The importance of cultivating a diverse audience:

Bourne: The audience of the future needs to be developed. People need to be excited about coming to see this sort of work. I'm not saying anything against the older audience - they're a very valued audience and they're regulars. But you do need to get the young people in. Next week, we're doing a schools performance... we're very happy to do it because we know that there could be young people in the audience seeing something like this for the first time and it could just trigger something in them that says, "That's for me. That's what I want to do with my life." Or they just have a great experience, you know, want to come back to the theater and see more. It's so important.

Matthew Bourne's "The Red Shoes" is at the Ahmanson Theatre until October 1. You can find more information here.



Get more stories like this

Delivered every Thursday, The Frame weekly email features the latest in Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment.