Hill, Constance Valis. Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Barbara Cohen-Stratyner but expanded into 360-degree effects possible only on a soundstage. Berkeley's first feature films were Samuel Goldwyn vehicles for the comedian Eddie Cantor (1892-1964), such as Roman Scandals (1933). In 1933 he began his association with Warner Bros./First National with 42nd Street. Based on a popular melodramatic novel about a dying director staging a musical during the Depression, the film switched the focus to Ruby Keeler (1909-1993) as a spunky understudy and became a popular icon of the early sound era. Warner Bros. produced a cycle of comedies, featuring its contract character actors, singers, and dancers, about staging musicals during the Depression, including Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), with its Pig Latin ''We're in the Money'' opening, and Footlight Parade (1933). Apart from solos for Keeler, most of Berkeley's choreography is based on simple movements made by a large number of synchronized dancers, sometimes magnified by mirrors and cameras.
Most are based on social dances or on tap dancing but are done on staircases. Mirrors and reflective floor surfaces expanded black and white design schemes. All of Berkeley's work features his signature techniques—animation, stage scenes that open up to huge sets, and prismatic overhead camera shots.
Many of the Hollywood dance films of the 1930s and 1940s were film versions of popular modern-dress musicals, with dance sequences expanded rather than reimagined. The studios assigned their staff choreographers and arrangers to the task, and the prevailing Hollywood style determined what reached the screen. Operettas, made popular by the singing film stars Jeanette MacDonald (1903-1965) and Nelson Eddy (1901-1967), used social dance to set place and time.
Vestiges of vaudeville and Broadway dance remained in the large number of films with backstage settings or with visits to the theater or nightclub built into the plot. The most prevalent style derived from live theater performance was the retention of the proscenium orientation, with the action taking place as if on a stage and the camera standing in for the audience. Gene Kelly (19121996) never broke free of frontal performance but developed many experiments to vary the form, such as his duet with Hanna-Barbera's animated mouse Jerry in Anchors Aweigh (1945), choreographed by Kelly and Stanley Donen (b. 1924). In "The King Who Couldn't Dance,'' Kelly teaches the cartoon mouse to tap. The setting is curtained like a stage set, with the throne in dead center. Following the pattern of a tap duet, he demonstrates steps, and the mouse repeats the movements, gradually dancing alongside and finally with him, bouncing off Kelly's biceps.
A defining aspect of dance in films of the 1930s through 1950s was movement inspired by or growing out of walking. Many of Hermes Pan's (1909-1990) solos and duets for Fred Astaire (1899-1987) convey a naturalness by beginning with walking. Classic examples include the ''Walking the Dog'' and roller skating sequences in Shall We Dance (1937), and the stroll through Central Park with Cyd Charisse (b. 1921) that begins and ends ''Dancing in the Dark'' in The Band Wagon (1953). The most famous walking dance in film is performed by Gene Kelly to the title song in Singin' in the Rain (1952).
Royal Wedding (1951) includes a classic pedestrian prop dance and two dances possible only on a soundstage. In the first of two sequences danced onboard a ship, Astaire, one-half of a sister-brother dancing team, partners with a coat stand when his sister (Jane Powell) fails to show up for rehearsal. Their social dance number a few scenes later begins conventionally, but the performance is converted into acrobatics when the ship encounters a storm. They attempt to dance, but when the floor begins to tip their steps are turned into slides. Later in the film, choreographed by Nick Castle, Astaire is dancing alone in his hotel room when he begins to push off against the wall. This movement usually signals flips off the wall (as in Donald O'Connor's ''Be a Clown'' number in Singin'in the Rain), but instead, he taps his way up the wall and on to the ceiling. The magical effect was produced on a soundstage equipped with hydraulic lifts.
Other memorable examples of pedestrian dances in film include the ''garbage can'' found percussion trio in It's Always Fair Weather (1955), choreographed by Gene Kelly; the Olympic team exercisers who ignore Jane Russell singing ''Isn't Anyone Here for Love?'' in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), choreographed by Jack Cole (1911-1974); and the rhythmic sawing and log splitting performed by the frustrated brothers in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), choreographed by Michael Kidd (b. 1919).
Surrealism was a second strong influence on choreographers for films of the 1940s and 1950s, with Jack Cole and Eugene Loring (1911-1982) at the forefront. Many dances featured moves for separated parts of the body, such as Loring's orchestra dance for The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953), written by Dr. Seuss. In Charles Walters's Easter Parade (1948), Ann Miller's (1923-2004) ''Shaking the Blues Away'' is famously accompanied by instrument-playing arms.
Broadway choreographers were only occasionally hired to reproduce their work. Agnes de Mille (19051993) did the stage and film versions of Oklahoma! (on Broadway from 1943, but not filmed until 1955), but not Brigadoon (1954), although both had dance sequences that were integral to the plot. Oklahoma's dream ballet, ''Laurey Makes Up Her Mind,'' had already influenced many film choreographers by 1955. The French postcards that the villain Jud keeps in his shack come to life in her imagination as symbols of sexual depravity. The blank faces and angular movements of the ''Post Card Girls'' inspired Bob Fosse (1927-1987). Many directors and choreographers have copied or adapted empty soundstage with abstract clouds painted on the cyclorama for their dream sequences, most notably the ''Gotta Dance'' scene in Singin' in the Rain. Michael Kidd reproduced on film his movements for two highly stylized shows—the Damon Runyon gamblers in Guys and Dolls (1955), and the comic strip come-to-life, Li'l Abner (1959). The King and I (1956) was filmed with Jerome Robbins's (1918-1998) ''Siamese'' dances intact, including the ''Small House of Uncle Thomas'' sequence. Robbins choreographed and co-directed West Side Story (1961), which scuttled the musical's dream ballets but kept the famous opening dance sequence.
Dance reemerged in Hollywood with the disco era, through popular films such as Saturday Night Fever
(1977) and its many imitators, and the 1950s-era musical Grease (1978), choreographed by Patricia Birch. The Wiz
(1978), choreographed by Louis Johnson (b. 1930), employed modern, tap, and jazz techniques, as well as club and break dancing around New York City locations. Dance was featured as atmosphere and plot material in La Bohème (1990), an Australian television production on which Baz Luhrmann (b. 1962) served as opera director, and Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Moulin Rouge (2001), directed by Luhrmann. The popular and critical successes of Moulin Rouge and Rob Marshall's (b. 1960) version of the Bob Fosse musical Chicago suggest that the musical is still a viable genre.
There have been feature films about dance as a profession since the silent era. Most, like Rouben Mamoulian's Applause (1929), include performance as well as backstage scenes. Ballet films tend to be highly melodramatic, among them Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's influential The Red Shoes (1948), in which a ballerina torn between love and art commits suicide. Ben Hecht's forgotten Specter of the Rose (1946), and The Turning Point (1977), directed by Herbert Ross (19272001), a former ballet dancer and choreographer, are equally obsessed with the emotional life of dancers. All three inspired their viewers to experience live performance. Similarly, art cinemas and university film societies made Soviet and French ballet films available in the 1960s and enlarged the audiences for touring ballet companies. Carlos Saura's Spanish collaborations with the flamenco choreographer Antonio Gades (1936-2004)—Bodas de sangre (1981), Carmen (1984), and El Amor brujo (1986)—achieved great popularity in the United States.
Fame (1980), based on New York City's High School of the Performing Arts, featured adolescents in
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