I'm currently reading Deep, Serious Books (Walter Benn Michaels, Kathryn Sutherland), not to mention executing writing about Anne Boleyn. [Just how long have you been working on that article? Shouldn't you set a better example for your graduate students--like the ones who know this blog's address?--Ed.] What better way to relax than to indulge one of my secret vices--namely, breaking out the DVDs and watching people dance? [Actually, that vice would be even more secret if you refrained from writing about it on your blog. Really, dear.--Ed.] Previous installments here, here, and here.
Follow the Fleet (1936): "Let Yourself Go," "Let's Face the Music and Dance." Fred Astaire! Ginger Rogers! What else is there to say? (OK, it's not my famous Astaire-Rogers flick, but any Astaire-Rogers is better than no Astaire-Rogers, right?)
House of Flying Daggers (2004): "The Echo Game." Granted, the editing has wandered in from MTV, but it's still a nifty idea--and quite a spectacle.
A former classmate has discovered Stephen Sondheim, which is all to the good. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street certainly gets my nomination for Best Musical of the Second Half of the Twentieth Century. OGIC might also want to try some of the post-Sondheim experimental composers/lyricists, like Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins in particular); Audra McDonald's Way Back to Paradise
Granted, it's a bit odd to be posting this now, since I stopped procrastinating today: two pages of my conference paper down, five more to go. Of course, there's still Emily Sarah Holt (twenty-five pages down, at least five or six more to go). Reading David S. Katz's God's Last Wordsfeels a bit like procrastination, because it's quite a fun book (yes, really), although the first Amazon reviewer has a point about its slightly idiosyncratic take on the history of Biblical criticism.
In any event, new additions to the procrastination lineup:
"Bouncin' the Blues" from The Barkleys of Broadway (1949): I've always loved this jazzy little divertissement, even if it's in one of the lesser Astaire/Rogers vehicles.
"All Ashore," "Please Don't Monkey with Broadway," and "Beguin the Beguine" from Broadway Melody of 1940: Eleanor Powell does incredibly athletic things, Fred Astaire and George Murphy duel, and Astaire and Powell duet. (I admit to fast-forwarding through Powell's singing, though.)
"The Red Blues" from Silk Stockings(1957): Cyd Charisse and proles in a vaguely Russian-themed dance number. (There's also something weirdly engaging about "The Ritz Roll and Rock," which tries to meld Fred Astaire's style with a mock rock n' roll beat.)
"When the Foeman Bares His Steel" from The Pirates of Penzance (1980): picture quality is eh, but I like the staging rather better than the 1983 film version with the same cast.
The challenge dance from The Cotton Club (1984): Charles "Honi" Coles, Gregory and Maurice Hines, Jimmy Slyde, and a number of others show us how it's really done. (This movie, by the way, has the most infuriating editing--was it necessary to chop up every Cotton Club number?)
The challenge dance from Tap (1989): Arthur Duncan, Bunny Briggs, Jimmy Slyde, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas, Howard "Sandman" Sims, Gregory Hines, and Sammy Davis Jr. show us (again) how it's really done. (I saw Jimmy Slyde perform live a few years ago; still very high on my all-time Extremely Cool Things list.)
The Newcomer's solo from Bojangles (2001): Savion Glover is brilliant, as per the usual.
Current DVD playlist (things rotate in and out a bit):
Call Me Madam: "What Chance Have I" (Donald O'Connor, tap-dancing with a xylophone and a lot of balloons)
Singin' in the Rain: "Make 'Em Laugh" (Donald O'Connor, many pratfalls, also that whole backflipping-off-the-walls thing), "Moses Supposes" (O'Connor and Kelly harass a specialist in elocution), part of the "Broadway Melody" (not really my favorite ballet sequence, but I'll sometimes watch Kelly's pas de deux with Cyd Charisse)
All That Jazz: the cattle call sequence (brilliantly edited, IMHO), "Everything Old is New Again" (deceptively simple choreography; I like this and the opener better than either the infamous "Airotica" sequence in the middle or that whacked-out disco death number at the end...)
Fosse: "Steam Heat" (nifty trio), "Sing! Sing! Sing!" (in pretty decent technical shape--most of the ensemble numbers on this recording are depressingly sloppy)
West Side Story: "Dance at the Gym," "America," "Cool" (all brilliant, path-breaking ensemble pieces, plus outstanding soloists)
Sweeney Todd: "The Worst Pies in London" (terrific comic song, even if it does look as though it's been overdubbed in post-production), "Pirelli's Miracle Elixir" (Ken Jenning has one of musical theatre's weirdest voices...), "A Little Priest" (comic cannibal recipes--what's not to like?), "God, That's Good!" (great choral work), "Johanna" (some of the evening's most melodic music--accompanied by Todd slashing several throats)