'The Red Shoes': The High-Flying Sweetness of Sky Candy

The high-flying sweetness of Sky Candy

'The Red Shoes'
Photo courtesy of Ryan Hayes

Despite their frequent combination in experimental theatre over the last two decades, circus arts and puppetry don't really coexist comfortably. Although both lend themselves to expressions of the fantastic and whimsical, the marriage more often than not yields very clumsy offspring. In aerial-based circus arts, it's too easy to rely on athletics. People will clap for anything if it's upside down and above the ground. For puppetry, it's difficult to master the technicalities and still achieve true theatre. Combining the two runs the risk of being both too ambitious and too artsy – like the running joke that is mime. While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with mime, it's become almost universally cringeworthy. In the wrong hands, circus arts and puppetry together risk that same fate.

So when it's done well, it's positively refreshing. Sky Candy's production of The Red Shoes, which sold out its May run and is back for a five-show reprise this weekend, was just such an accomplishment. This adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale is told primarily through dance and aerial arts, with some successful interweaving of projected shadow puppets and one big, misplaced marionette. Billed as "cirque noir," Sky Candy's version is relentlessly dark, from the heroine's seduction by the scarlet slippers to her ultimate demise in hell. While the storyline was at times a bit hard to follow, it didn't matter. Director and Sky Candy co-founder Chelsea Laumen made sure that the emotional content of each section was complete. In the end, the narrative was realized gracefully.

Including acrobatic adagio, pole dance, and pretty much the gamut of static aerial apparatuses (including chains), the choreography was exceptional. Dancers Michelle Stuckey in the adagio, Brynn Route on the pole, and Celeste Myhre on aerial hoop were the standouts in terms of presence and musicality. The shadow-puppet projections that connected and sometimes accompanied these aerial and adagio vignettes served a clever double role, both providing a Greek chorus for the action and keeping the audience engaged in the underworld during the periodic rigmarole of rigging. They were at once effective and enchanting.

Sky Candy's first feature production grew out of the collective's mission to develop and foster local interest in the aerial arts. Based on the frantic expansion of classes after the close of the previous production, its mission has been a success. Given the initial reception to The Red Shoes, Austin is ready for circus theatre. Blue Lapis Light has long shown Austin what the aerial arts can do for dance; now, Sky Candy is ready to show what it can do for the powerful combination of circus and theatre.


The Red Shoes runs Aug. 19-21, Friday, 8pm, and Saturday-Sunday, 3 & 8pm, at the ND at 501 Studios, 501 N. I-35. For more information, visit www.skycandyaustin.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More The Red Shoes
Such Great Heights
Such Great Heights
The agony and ecstasy of Powell and Pressburger pictures

Kimberley Jones, June 11, 2010

More Sky Candy
Austin's Artspace Crisis and Microvenues
Austin's Artspace Crisis and Microvenues
Are home art galleries and mini-performance venues the answer to the space crunch?

Robert Faires, June 22, 2018

Untether From the Ground for These Seven High-Flying Summer Activities
Untether From the Ground for These Seven High-Flying Summer Activities
If trapeze, parkour, and hammock camping all sound too athletic, you can always opt for a rooftop pool

Clara Wang, May 18, 2018

More Arts Reviews
Exhibitionism
A Minister's Wife
This musical version of G.B. Shaw’s ‘Candida’ is exactly the right size for Austin, cozy with room for plenty of nuance

Jillian Owens, April 5, 2013

Arts Review
Poste Restante
A cocktail of a performance about what it means to send a letter

Elizabeth Cobbe, Dec. 23, 2011

More by Raven Hinojosa
Dyke in Gold Knickers
Dyke in Gold Knickers
Radical carnal expression celebrates its third QueerBomb

June 1, 2012

Fire
Fire
Ignite this summer with fireworks, camp fire, and more.

May 25, 2012

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Red Shoes, Sky Candy, Chelsea Laumen, Michelle Stuckey, Brynn Route, Celeste Myhre

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle