Matthew Bourne's dramatic ballet The Red Shoes, which earned rave reviews in England last year, is heading stateside this month. Based on the Academy Award–winning 1948 movie of the same name, the show follows the passionate aspiring ballerina Victoria Page as she tries to dance her way to the top, but ultimately must choose between her love of dance and the love of her life. Joining Bourne's company, New Adventures, as guest artists are New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns, who will perform the role of Victoria for select performances at New York City Center; and American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes, who will tour with the company, dancing the role of Julian Craster in select cities. DS chatted with Mearns to see what the rehearsal process has been like, and how it's been different from preparing for a typical NYCB season.
What do you identify with most in Victoria?
Sara Mearns: She's dying to succeed. Everybody has this push inside of them where you want to make it to the top, you want to be in the front. I'm still always pushing my boundaries and going out of my comfort zone.
What kind of character research did you do?
It was a lot of watching old movies and studying that generation of actresses. I watched the film a lot. Moira Shearer, who played Victoria, paid so much attention to detail in her acting. I wanted to stay true to the character she portrayed in the movie, but also have my take on it.
What's been the most challenging part of the process?
In this show I'm in character shoes, I'm barefoot, I'm in flat shoes, and I'm in pointe shoes. I perform many forms of dance, which I don't get to do a lot, and that's fun for me. It was a lot of work, though. I'm pretty stable in a pointe shoe, but sometimes when I put a character shoe on I can't even walk.
What's it been like working with New Adventures?
I got to work with the whole company onstage in Liverpool, and I was so intimidated by the dancers. But they couldn't have been nicer. They acted like I was already part of the family, which let me relax and really focus on what I needed to do.
What are you most excited about?
I'm very excited to perform at City Center again. It's kind of like my second home in NYC. I'm also excited for everyone to see another side of myself. And to just be in that character. Every time I watch the show, I'm in tears at the end. I just can't wait to be in that moment onstage with everybody.
A version of this story appeared in the October 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "A Film Classic, Reimagined."