Save the Last Dance for Me, the Red Shoes Show at VCA

Save the Last Dance for Me

Once upon a time “Red Shoes” were linked to status, wealth and power.  The cost of red dyes like cochineal, and madder
, used to die cloth and leather, made them affordable only to the rich. Popes, Emperors and Kings wore red shoes to symbolize a divine right to rule.  By the late 18th century red shoes had become a sign of aspirational fashion for men and for women.

When author Hans Christen Anderson published “The Red Shoes” in 1845 he linked Christian themes of sin, pride, disobedience and redemption to a Danish folk tale and red shoes took on a darker meaning.  His protagonist Karen and by extension women who wore red shoes, became cultural transgressors of the acceptable feminine norm.  Red shoes were recast as symbols of passion, as uncontrollable urges and in Anderson’s version, red shoes possessed a will of their own…to dance. The only way Karen could stop dancing was by having her feet and shoes removed by axe.  

Since Anderson’s characterization, red shoes have become a malleable symbol applied to issues of women’s agency and physical journey, to dance/dancers, role play, gender and the edges of cultural boundaries.  In 1939 red shoes were transformed in a new narrative as “Ruby Slippers” in the film version of L. Frank Balm’s “The Wizard of Oz”. 

This Oz story is a classic Hero’s Journey. When Dorothy’s house, by way of Kansas and tornado, lands on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East in a world somewhere over the rainbow, Dorothy claims and wears the ruby slippers worn by the witch.  Like Anderson’s version of “The Red Shoes”,  Dorothy is unable to remove the shoes once she slips them on, but these shoes (she will eventually discover) respect the wishes of their wearer!

Dorothy Gail,  in short order, excepts the call to adventure, makes exceptional friends while sharing a message of love and acceptance and achieves the prescribed goal.  She and the friends who have accompanied her on this journey are empowered by facing personal fears and through reliance upon each other.  They are rewarded with recognition of their innate abilities and the confidence to be themselves.  Dorothy returns “Home” enlightened and self aware.

My print “Save The Last Dance For Me” celebrates true love and being being true to oneself.  It’s one moment in a series of images exploring gender role play and same sex relationship. Leo and Lang are the characters in this personal exploration of two hearts who find each other and themselves.  

The Red Shoe Show, Curated by Kathleen Kinney, opens Friday July 27, 6-9 PM at Vashon Center for the Arts during the Vashon Summer Arts Fest.  Additional evening opening will be August 3 and August 10, 6-9PM.  Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10-5, Saturday Noon-5  


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