Introduction to Gene Kelly and his Importance in the Dance Industry
Describe about Gene Kelly-Athletic dance.
In the dance history Gene Kelly is a famous name to all classic era movie musicals. He was a great legend who dominated the discussions regarding dance in the film industry. His name evokes an image of a man who blissfully danced in a rainstorm with a closed umbrella firmly held in his hand while his other hand held a lamp post. His powerful image is derived from Singin' in the Rain and communicates Kelly essence as an ordinary guy (Kelly, 2). Kelly was born on 23rd August 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a talented dancer, film director as well as a choreographer. As a dancer, he combined his athletic dancing style with the classical ballet technique to revolutionize movie musical as well as transform the American Public understanding of the male dancers (Windreich, 8). Today Dance historians perceive Kelly's work as revolutionary due to the manner in which he framed, shaped, and presented his dance. Despite his fame and monetary prosperity, he opted for a humble life. In 2002 at the PBS Kelly was quoted to have confessed that he didn't want to act or behave like a rich man. Similarly, in the documentary Gene Kelly Anatomy of a Dancer he expressed his interest in dance in a pair of jeans to resemble a street man (Borelli, 17).
Kelly started his successful career as a dancer in 1938 at Broadway. In the same year, he was featured in the Cole Porter musical Leave It to Me with a minor role of a specialty dancer. Many other consequent shows in which he performed included The Time of Your Life in 1939. By that time he was already choreographing. A year after he was mainly featured in the Pal Joey which was inaugurated the Charismas day in the year 1940. His performance in the Pal Joey earned him fame due to his admirable innovative and entertaining dance moves. As a result, he was invited to Hollywood in the year 1941 and did a performance in For Me and My Gal, which was released in 1942 and contributed significantly in modeling Kelly as a star. Though he was mostly assigned minor roles in dramas as well as musicals at Hollywood, he utilized the opportunity to build his reputation. His career took a turning point in the year 1945 after performing in the film Anchors Aweigh (Fogarty, 83). For the first time, he got a chance to pair with Frank Sinatra and enjoyed the freedom that enabled him create his dance numbers as well as an opportunity to use a camera to illuminate his dance. In addition, his ability to integrate cartoon mouse Jerry in the film "The King Who Couldn't Dance" portrayed him as a creative dancer who diversified the film themes. After a successful performance in the Anchors Aweigh, he was recruited in the Navy where he was mainly involved in the performing as well as making of documentaries, newsreels, and films for the Navy. He was relieved from Navy in 1946 and returned to Hollywood (Borelli, 45)
Kelly's Athletic Dancing Style and Ballet Technique
After his return to Hollywood, he performed in remarkable films which included; Slaughter on Tenth Avenue divertissement in Words and Music in 1948, Take Me Out To The Ballgame and On The Town in 1949, Summer Stock in 1950 (Kelly et al., 2). Later he performed a sole known as "You Wonderful You" which manifested his originality. In the history of dance Kelly is best commemorated for his Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris. In these two films Kelly gave his best as a dancer as well as a choreographer and as a co-director (Mendoza, 15).
Kelly dancing style was mainly inspired by sports especially hockey which was his favorite sport. In addition, he combined athletic and ballet technique a combination which appealed to many people considering that it was a post-war era, and masculinity was what pleased America at the time. Gene Kelly depicted a post-war hero who celebrated the glory of the war through manifesting his physicality and masculine strength. As a result, Kelly dances reflected energy and power hence he represented an ideal American Man who was unbowed by the post-war depression. The victory in the war has made America perceive itself a masculine country (Jones, 36).
The mechanics of his dancing style manifested a soldier who had just returned from the war. However, he also emphasized the emotional significance in the dance hence a dance according to him was not just a flash but an important phenomenon that communicated through the dancer body movements. His dancing mechanics entailed a masterly power control of his body as well as the manifestation of the postwar mannish ideals. His dance movement entailed dancing down with a lot of weight combined with a lot of force and command though perfectly controlled (Gennfi, 77). On the other hand, his dancing entailed clear effortlessness as well as lightness which he achieved through the excellent integration of ballet skills into his upper body movements and stature. His physical strength facilitated his effortlessness movement thus making his dance movement more appeal to his contemporaries. Similarly, Kelly's choice of his wardrobe also made many Americans identify with him (Chumo, 45). He chose casual clothing which entailed a baseball cap, slacks, and polo shirts or a uniform. Thus his dressing code portrayed his uniqueness and masculinity in postwar period. He also distinguished himself as a street man thus maintaining his uniqueness which was different from the previous dance stars of the yesteryears (Gennfi, 79).
Kelly's Notable Performances in Movie Musicals
Kelly dancing resonates well with the American popular culture especially his dancing in the Singin' in the Rain because it bridged the gap between the silent films and the talkies films. Through his understanding of the power of dancing he craftily moved people's emotions as he kept the story in the film moving thus, keeping alive to the American culture of expressing emotions without fear. For example, in the News paper dance, he starts by playing with children, and this is culminated in the Singin' in the Rain a fact that each can relate to in a spontaneous way. He riffs within the board while keeping his tap steps which he excellently integrates with whiny sounds to result into a fascinating rhythm (Gerstner, 54). As dismissing the obstacles in the floor, he bumps into a newspaper. He briefly plays with it and creatively turns into a dancing tool this creativity portrays Kelly as an agent of control within his environs. As the dance progress his steps become larger but well contained accompanied with well-crafted footwork (Hoskins, 16). At the time America was demonstrating the power and through this step, he also illustrated power and control. At the end of the dance, he swung his hands from side to side while splitting his legs widely thus manifesting his masculinity as well as his athleticism abilities. Another dance which manifests him as a man who dominates and controls his environment is the staircase dance. Additionally, Kelly dancing styles can be perceived as a means of self-actualization and thus personal amplification to an audience (Austin, 67).
The staircase and the newspaper dance are good examples why Gene Kelly was so admired and popular among his audience. In a postwar era, American men felt strong and masculine, and this feeling was fading from them. Thus, Kelly through his dancing emerged to aid them claims it back. His ability to live and perform as an everyday man with vigor and physical abilities was a great embodiment of postwar heroism. His audiences identified with his athletic style hence aroused the sentiment that they were still powerful. He represented both the literal and the figurative relevance of the sturdy oak archetype. His masculine ideals manifested a man who had ultimate control of his environment which displayed a perfect manhood. Gene Kelly contribution to the American dance can be noted in his ability to combine the ballet, tap, and the modern dance in a creative, athletic manner to create a new kind of American dance. In addition, he worked tirelessly to ensure dance became popular in America. He was also exceptional in the sense that he had the ability to dance and sing simultaneously as well as create an authentic character on the stage while performing (Hoskins, 10).
In conclusion, Kelly integration of the dance with the film aspects as well as his performance ability aided him in developing a reputable persona. He also contributed significantly in the combination of the animation and dance in the Anchors Aweigh and the Invitation to the dance. Kelly himself referred his style of dancing as a hybrid due to his ability to combine various dance approaches (Jones, 34). Gene Kelly Legacy is common in music video such as Michael Jackson Cover off the wall as well as in the Opposite attracts. Today Kelly is remembered because of his strong screen persona and a legend whose innovation in the dance film industry led to its revolution (Gerstner, 57).
Austin, Judy. "Mentors of American Jazz Dance." Dancing Female 12 (2014): 67. Borelli, Melissa Blanco, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen. Oxford University Press, 2014. Print
Chumo, Peter N. "Dance, Flexibility, and the Renewal of Genre in" Singin'in the Rain"." Cinema Journal (2016): 39-54. Print.
Fogarty, Mary. "Gene Kelly: The Original, Updated." The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen (2014): 83. Print
Gennfi, Beth. "Teaching Dance on Film and Film Dance." Teaching Dance Studies (2016): 77. Print
Gerstner, David Anthony. "Dancer from the dance: Gene Kelly, television, and the beauty of movement." Velvet Light Trap (2012): 48-67. Print
Hoskins, Jim. The Dances of Shakespeare.Routledge, 2013. Print
Jones, Brian. "Ballroom-forever young." DANZ Quarterly: New Zealand Dance 34 (2014): 34. Print
Kelly, Gene. "Anatomy of a Dancer." (2002). Print. Kelly, Gene, et al. Singin'in the Rain.Warner Home Video, 2011. Print
Mendoza, Final Trailer Nate. "Author Archives: nathmendoza." Film History (2013). Print
Windreich, Leland. "Capturing the dance." The World & I 17.11 (2012): 88. Print
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