Doodad Kind of Town

The (Ten or) Fifteen Favorite Dancers Meme
September 2, 2009, 12:10 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Marilyn has tagged me in a new meme. The mission? Name my fifteen favorite dancers.

Much as I love musicals, naming 15 favorite hoofers may be more than I can manage. But I can for sure come up with at least 10. (The fact that most of them are also on Marilyn’s original list is kind of unavoidable, because we all know who the greats are, right? Besides even if I name the same dancers, I’m sure I can come up with a whole different set of clips.)

Here goes….

1. Fred Astaire
2. Elanor Powell

Two great dancers who belong on everyone’s lists. As far as I know, they only made one film together, Broadway Melody of 1940. And the highlight of that film is their spirited “tap off” to Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine.

3. Vera Ellen
4. Danny Kaye

Christmas just isn’t Christmas if I don’t get to see this production number. Vera Ellen’s high kicks just blow my mind (especially the backwards ones!) And while Danny Kaye isn’t a dancer per se, I love watching his moves in “White Christmas.” (Bing Crosby, meanwhile, just barely manages to hold his own.)

5. Gene Kelly

What list of dancers would be complete without him? I love this dance on roller skates from “It’s Always Fair Weather.” (And the French subtitles just make it that much more fun.)

6. Chita Rivera
7. Gwen Verdon

Move over Zellwegger and Zeta-Jones. They were the first Velma and Roxie, they’re dance legends, and in this clip (from “The Mike Douglas Show”!) they tear up the joint with The Hot Honey Rag from the finale of Chicago. The really good part starts about four minutes into the clip -watch for a cameo appearance by Hal Linden.

8. Cyd Charisse

Another essential to any list of great dancers, and another clip from It’s Always Fair Weather.

9. Kay Thompson

She’s not especially known for her dancing, but OMG – just look at this number from Funny Face! Did you even notice that Fred Astaire was there? There just isn’t enough of Kay Thompson in the movies, if you ask me.

10. Mikhail Baryshnikov
11. Gregory Hines

I’d almost forgotten about this movie – and this dance scene. But then I went looking for Baryshnikov clips and it all came back to me. I haven’t seen White Nights in years and years, but I clearly recall this scene.

And now comes the part where I get to ask others to play!

I tag: Miranda Wilding at Cinematic Passions
Fox at Tractor Facts
Daniel at Getafilm
Sam Juliano at Wonders in the Dark

Have fun!

9 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great choices, Pat. I remember the Kay Thompson clip, and it's true – she upstages Astaire for most of this number. He shouldn't have tied his hands up holding that guitar.And of course, the classic Begin the Beguine number. I traded movie assignments with a guy who loves John Waters and stuff like that, and I assigned him Broadway Melody of 1940. He fell for Eleanor Powell instantly! I'm quite proud of that.And Chita and Gwen – fantastic!I knew I could count on you.

Comment by Marilyn

Thanks,Marilyn -It was a really fun meme to participate in.We lovers of musicals must stick together!

Comment by Pat

Yes. There aren't many of us.

Comment by Marilyn

Ah, Pat, what a comprehensive list here that doesn't leave us any bones to chew on! Ha!Alas, of the very first-rank I could only point to Donald O'Connor and Ginger Rogers as the ones conspicuously M.I.A. The former of course negotiated one of SINGIN IN THE RAIN'S most magical segments, while Ms. Rogers, admittedly overshawed by her iconic partner, was still a major talent in her own right. I would not dare to question your numerical order here (it seems pretty much dead-on) except to say that Gene Kelly seriously challenges Astaire for the top spot for all sorts of reasons, but like anything else it comes down to personal taste. I would also elevate the wondrous Cyd Charisse, and would pose the inclusion of Rudolf Nuryev, although the prime focus here is film musical dancers. Had you extended it, of course, Michael Jackson would be near the top, rightfully, and I applaud the timeliness of this post in view of his untimely passing. "Begin the Beguine" is arguably the greatest musical number ever written in it's fusion of both dance and music, even if my own choice for graetest song ever written remains Kern's perfect "All The Things You Are" from VERY WARM FOR MAY. As you note, Astaire and Powell were electrifying. Love that inclusion there of Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon! I share Marilyn's excitement at that mention! There was of course some irresitable team dancing in A CHORUS LINE on stage and screen, and who couldn't give Rita Moreno her due in WEST SIDE STORY. Vintage dancing abounds in that masterpiece as well as in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, THE BAND WAGON, THE KING AND I, MY FAIR LADY, OLIVER!, GODSPELL, CABARET (Joel Grey must be mentioned here, no?) and a number of works from the 50's. Who could ever forget the extraordinary team work in the exuberant SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, nor the fine foot work in GUYS AND DOLLS? Sometimes there's a freshness and vibrance to unassuming "movements" as there was looking upon the infectious work of Leonard Frey in the movie FIDDLER, even while knowing that the heavyweights on this lists are professionals of the highest caliber who can't be touched. Naturally there are those would readily promote the work in STRICTLY BALLROOM, FAME, MOULIN ROUGE, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, GREASE, DIRTHY DANCING, FOOTLOOSE and others too, and they have a fair enough argument. Powell and Pressbuger's immortal THE RED SHOES also boasts some magnificent work by it's beloved stars, Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook et al. This is a marvelous post, one dear to my own heart as well, and I am deeply honored and grateful you have deemed to include me Pat!

Comment by Sam Juliano

Sam-Thank you for your generaous response.I have to admit, I was not making any attempt here to rank my favorite dancers, I was simply ticking them off as I thought of them and added them to the post. Had I gone the extra mile and done a ranking, Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse would cenrtainly be near the top of the list with Astaire, while Danny Kaye would probably come in around 11th.Donald O'Connor is wonderful, of course. Actually I thought about adding Debbie Renolds, too, just to give her credit for keeping up with Kelly and O'Connor, especially since she was so young and green and Kelly was browbeating her mercilessly everyday on the set.You reference a lot of wonderful musicals in your comment, most particularly "Fiddler on the Roof," which I dearly love (yes, Leonard Frey is wonderful!) – had I thought a little harder, I would have given a special place on the list to those men who dance at the wedding with the wine bottles on their heads. That is still a thrilling moment to me, every time I see it.You've practically given me your list in your comment, but I hope you'll put up a post, too. Also looking forward to thoughts aobut "Peeping Tom" over at your blog.Finally, I saw your repsonse to my comment and took note of your email address. Perhaps we can say "hello" while I'm in NYC in a couple of weeks.

Comment by Pat

Awesome list, my girl!!!All of your choices are wonderful, including CYD CHARISSE, MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV, GENE KELLY, CHITA RIVERA and GREGORY HINES – all of whom made my own TOP 15. I know a lot about dance and I love it. So I was greatly honoured amd moved that you tagged me, Patty. My list is up now if you'd like to take a look at it. Thanks again…

Comment by Miranda Wilding

Pat– Please do contact me as Lucille and I will love to say hello to you while you are here! We will figure out the specifics. I will definitely post something at the site on my ten top dancers, but my computer abilities are limited, so I won't be adding many pictures or you tube clips. I will be posting a lenghthy report on the Brit Noir festival, which ends tonight, sometime next week, and of course PEEPING TOM will be part of the equation.Thanks again!

Comment by Sam Juliano

Very cool list. How could I have forgotten Danny Kaye on my own list? Oy.

Comment by Rick Olson

Rick -Danny Kaye doesn't spring to mind when you think about dancers, but he really could "cut a rug" and he more than keeps up with Vera Ellen in "White Christmas." One thing that always strikes me – and makes me chuckle – when I watch it is how clumsy Bing and Rosemary look next to Vera and Danny in the musical numbers. It's easy to tell who the real dancers are.

Comment by Pat

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