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April 2002, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 2 Apr 2002 16:28:04 EST
text/plain (60 lines)
In a message dated 4/2/02 12:14:35 PM, [log in to unmask] writes:

<< A friend is interested in putting together a class on dance in film.
I'm quoting her mail below.

"I'm interested in exploring the gradual integration of movies with
dance. Clearly, feature films like The Gold Diggers of 1933, Invitation
to the Dance, and Swing Time should be included. But I need a little
help with some other choices. I'd like the films to range
internationally, if possible, and show development of the marriage of
camera and human movement. That might mean bringing in some Maya Deren
(say, one evening of experimental works), even some influential
ethnographic films."
I thought Bollywood would be another place to look at. Any other
suggestions? She's not a list member, but I can forward her the
Melis Behlil. >>

Dance on film goes back to, basically, the very first images, so the
integration wasn't that slow. For the US, there aren't many good books on the
subject but you might want to check out "Dancing In the Sun: Hollywood
Choreographers, 1915-1937" by Naima Prevots and the writings by Agnes Demille
(my all-time favorite) about growing up in Hollywood. She mentions some of
the choreographers who passed through. You also have to consider films like
Intolerance that hired (as I remember) Ruth St. Denis to do the choreography
or Dumb Girl of Portici that Lois Weber directed and starred Anna Pavlova.
And of course, there's the influence of Denishawn with all its "graduates"
who went on to star in Hollywood such as Louise Brooks. And yes, the
"ethnographic" or "travelogue" films were considered mass entertainment back
in the silent era and had a definite effect on the arts of its time.

Then in the 1930s comes the influence of Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, Hanya
Holm and very late in the decade, Demille herself. It mostly affected
Broadway, but there are definite ways it changed how Hollywood moved.

One of the best books is Arlene Croce's book on Fred and Ginger. It's one of
the few to critique dance on film as a separate art. I believe she had the
discussion on how Fred's work in the 1950s was changed by watching modern
dance -- how he went from ballet's use of lightness to experimenting with
floor work and gravity. That particularly was interesting to me to see when
watching his films.

Then there's Bob Fosse in the 1950s and 1960s, the influence of the Judson
School in the 1960s and 1970s and then Twyla Tharp ("Hair" has some
beautifully filmed dances) in the 1980s.

Dennis Doros
Milestone Film & Video
PO Box 128
Harrington Park, NJ 07640
Phone: (201) 767-3117 or in the US (800) 603-1104
Fax: (201) 767-3035
Email: [log in to unmask]

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