Call it synchronicity or just plain coincidence, but dancer-choreographer Haruko Nishimura started working on "Red Shoes," her latest creation for Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE), around the same time that a restored version of the famous ballet film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival. Both are based on the Hans Christian Andersen story about a girl who is compelled to dance, but the resemblance between the two productions ends there.
The film is a straightforward narrative interspersed with some dance sequences. Nishimura’s, on the other hand, is a dreamlike, multimedia, butoh-influenced moveable feast of a theatrical presentation, each of whose five “chapters” takes place in a different location on Seattle's First Hill.
The audience and performers, including Nishimura, San Francisco dancer Dohee Lee, and DEA’s huge collaborative team, start out at the Frye Museum, then move to four other locations, including St. James Cathedral, as the story unfolds. Along the way, they have a range of experiences that Nishimura likens to a joint creative journey. “'Red Shoes' is a collaboration with the audience. I don’t want to tell a literal story but create another world and allow each person to decide what their story is.”
Nishimura makes the collaboration between artist and audience explicit by bringing the audience directly into "Red Shoes" as co-performers. She understands this can be scary for some people but adds with a laugh, “I’m terrified too, so we’re in the same boat. We’re taking a journey together.”
Performances of "Red Shoes" are part of the DAE exhibition now on view at the Frye. The exhibit, which includes costumes, videos, sound works, sculptures and props from a range of DAE shows, continues through June 19.
If you go: The final performance of "Red Shoes" by Degenerate Art Ensemble is Thursday (May 26). The free performance begins at the Frye Museum, 704 Terry Ave., at 7:30 p.m. The show is sold out, but last-minute tickets may be available at the Frye the evening of the performance.