Philosophy of the Red Shoes – Part II – The Turning Point

pointe_shoesPart II continues the exploration of the question posed in the film, The Red Shoes.  After reading this section on The Turning Point,, think back to both films and reflect about the correlations, as well as the differences.

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The situation in The Red Shoes is an individual struggle within one’s soul; however, in the film, The Turning Point, individual struggle is divided between two main characters who embody art and domesticity, respectively. The Turning Point was a gem of a film as it not only showcased bravura dance performance, but incorporated a story line that posed the artistic question. The fact that this question encompassed two different generations really brought the point home. Again, the question is the spirituality of art or the earthly functionality of marriage. Can’t one have both worlds, and still find happiness? “Apparently not” is the answer.

The fact that the passion of these two characters erupts into one of the most famous cat fights on film, clearly demonstrates that the artistic question is brought to the surface with wild emotion. It is artistic passion that has transcended the emotional and the romantic, culminating in spectacle. Giorgio Agamben asserts that there is a separation from the text, the marginal notes that surround an event or book. Here we see the polite bantering of the two women, Emma and Deedee, in The Turning Point, yet the notes outside the text of the situation are the misplaced artistic passion colliding with domesticity. The “margin notes” of jealousy hover around and in the sub-text of their dialogue, which then erupt into the emotional and physical spectacle – the catfight over ballet.

It is in this climax that the prima, Emma (Anne Bancroft) and the suburban Deedee (Shirley MacLaine) discover the truth about themselves, and one another.

Emma admits that Deedee was just as good as she, and that ambition overcame friendship when the new role in the ballet was to be cast so many years before, determining an end to Deedee’s career. Deedee, however, is affirmed, and all of the doubt that ached within her soul, forever disappears as she realizes that her artistic potential was cause for jealous, artistic theft.

“The Turning Point”  –  IMDB Trailer and Photos

anne_bancroft_chrysler_theatre_1964_croppedEmma states that “If I was a man, I could have all the feet… I mean, children I wanted to… and still danced”  It is an unfair situation, faced by both women. While content, they have not reached their full potential, or met that Platonic form of passion, that merges the spiritual and the physical realms. They are a hypothetical train whistle away from “The Red Shoes” spiritual death.  In Emma’s case, art has won, leaving her with no husband. Deedee embraces domesticity; however, Deedee, along with her retired dancer husband, can live through their daughter, Emilia’s ascent into the ballet world, as compromise. It is a compromise that works for Deedee, and one that truly suits headstrong, and very prima, Emma; yet art and domesticity still have not found solace as a oneness within either of the two women’s’ souls.                                                                                            Anne Bancroft

Victoria Page is still the ghost, the shadow lurking behind them.

The conflict arises, however, not only because Emma’s ballet company visits a town where the company eventually comes, the conflict arises over MacLaine’s teenage daughter, Emelia, who is just arriving at life’s adventure, herself, at the brink of ballet success. Knowing what has to be sacrificed, McClain’s Deedee is reluctant to let her daughter have a dancing career; yet it is Bancroft’s Emma, with connections to the company that pulls Emelia into the world of dance, knowing full well that artistic passion has been working overtime in the child.

Here we have conflict between the older and younger generations, and artistic passion again, is the villain. It draws Emelia into its grip, much like the evil cobbler in The Red Shoes ballet.  Emelia innocently has a relationship with the company’s Russian star, Yuri.  The strains of romantic music from Romeo and Juliet deceptively brings together the concept of ballet and love; yet the deception shows its true face when Emelia is dismissed as just another company member trophy by the star, played by Mikhail Baryshnikov. Emelia is crushed, but eventually recovers, going on to dancing glory.

mikhail_baryshnikov_1984Emelia somewhat changes the story of Victoria Page in The Red Shoes, as she survives; yet, she has also had her first lesson from the taskmaster, art, that domesticity and art cannot blend into a synthesis of perfection, only mediocrity if pursued together. After all, domestic fights can destroy performance and the will to dance, when brokenhearted. Emelia’s “terrible decision” has been made for her. She has died romantically, but has been reborn spiritually again, because of the pull of artistic passion, that heals and draws that aspiration to beauty which is all-encompassing.

Mikhail Baryshnikov

Emelia dances at the end of the film, joyous that she has chosen art for herself. 

There is a third film; however,  that further embodies and continues the narrative of “The Red Shoes.”  Part III looks at a ballet film from 2000.

 To be continued…

Center Stage



The Turning Point. [motion picture]. United States. Twentieth Century Fox. 1977


Anne Bancroft

Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

Mikhail Baryshnikov – 1984

Rachel Haramati [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Pointe Shoes

By Keitei (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons


September 27, 2016


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