Oh my. I have been using my time wisely. I have this new blog that I follow Beguiling Hollywood and it has revived my love of old movies. Way back in the old days our local channel 2 would show old movies on Sundays and in the wee hours of the night. I watched countless old movies from Charlie Chaplin to grand musicals, old fashioned love stories, war movies and everything in between. My first choices to revisit were classic Fred and Ginger. Swing Time and Top Hat. I would go back over and over to view the dance numbers and find myself being completely transported to this dreamy, happy place of beautiful people in glorious dresses dancing cheek to cheek. From Swing Time Fred is doing the Bojangles of Harlem number and it is stunning in its modernity with the three shadows dancing behind him. Come to find that idea of the shadows was from Hermes Pan choreographer and long time close friend to Astaire.
Of course my favorite from Top Hat is the feathers dance or Cheek to Cheek number. That dance and the dress too has a rightful place in dance and movie history. The feathers dress was blue and must have been beautiful to see in person. It is now housed in the Smithsonian. Google it, You-tube it, Wiki it whatever, it’s awesome. For both movies the costume designer was Bernard Newman. Beautiful designs and a master at dressing Miss Rogers. But, credit also goes to Rogers who from being a dancer and someone who loved fashion knew the value of having the right costume and didn’t let the clothes wear her. When you watch her dance notice what she does with a dress, how she swings it, holds it and so forth. Even in scenes where she is not dancing you will see her do these tiny gestures with her costume. I believe these were her own costume notes to herself. Like early on in Top Hat notice what she does with the silky robe. Cool.
I was reading about Ginger Rogers and her dancing technique and how that particular swing of skirts harkens back to a form of dance called Skirt Dancing. This form of dance has a unique and beautiful history that is well worth reading. There is folkloric skirt dancing as well as a more modern version that became popular at Folies Bergere. Two of the most popular Skirt Dancers were Cyrene from Spain and Loie Fuller, French. Here is a look at Loie Fuller (or it may be a student, some say it’s not her). It’s beautiful, sensual and hypnotic. These skirts used upwards of 100 yards of fabric. She created the lightning techniques as well.
When you see Ginger dance you see a bit of the Skirt Dancer too. And, one final note an early student of Loie Fuller was none other than Isadora Duncan. Loie Fuller was an amazing woman and really worth checking out if you are interested at all in the history of dance. Now, there are far better writers on the subject of dance, Hollywood, movies and so forth, my little post is just a taste, but I hope you go out and investigate these treasures further. For me I’m going to steal away and watch the documentary Ballet Russes.