Dancing in Hollywood Via MoMA

The history of Hollywood movies is sprinkled with great dancing. And here to tell us about it is Debra Levine, the Los Angeles writer and scholar

whose passion is dance in Hollywood movies. She has breezed into New York to give talks at the Museum of Modern Art’s film series, and brought with her one of the most charismatic dancers on the silver screen—George Chakiris. With his sizzling acting/dancing as Bernardo in the movie West Side Story in 1961, he set many girls’ hearts aflutter. (Mine was one of them.)

At right: A scene from West Side Story, courtesy MoMA.

Today at 4:00 we’ll be treated to a double header. First, Chakiris will introduce the 1953 Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that hilarious gal pal movie in which Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell bond. Chakiris is one of the guys who dances with Marilyn Monroe in her persona-defining number “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” It’s sometimes said that choreographer Jack Cole created the Marilyn Monroe mystique by coaching her in the art of sexiness for that number. (In this posting two years ago I called Cole the under-recognized genius of dance in movies.)

Then at 6:45 Debra Levine tells the story of the original Hollywood/dance connection. Apparently the relationship between Hollywood’s biggest tycoon, Cecil B. De Mille, and the Ballets Russes dancer Theodore Kosloff ignited the dance craze in Tinseltown. Levine will screen De Mille’s 1930 extravaganza Madame Satan, in which Kosloff plays the bizarre character of Electricity.

Above: Madam Satan, courtesy MoMA.

A fascinating link between ballet and Hollywood, Kosloff worked in movies as a dancer, choreographer and actor for years before becoming a popular ballet teacher. James Cagney, Charles Weidman, and Nana Gollner were his students. Oh, and Cecil's niece, Agnes De Mille.

These screenings are part of MoMA’s 12th Annual International Festival of Film Preservation, this year titled “To Save and Project.” For Levine’s talk and showing of Madame Satan at 6:45, click here.

Day in the Life

Most people may know Derek Dunn for his impeccable turns and alluring onstage charisma. But the Boston Ballet principal dancer is just as charming offstage, whether he's playing with his 3-year-old miniature labradoodle or working in the studio. Dance Magazine recently spent the day with Dunn as he prepared for his debut as Albrecht in the company's upcoming run of Giselle.

Dance Training
Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy Mark Morris Dance Group

You know compelling musicality when you see it. But how do you cultivate it? It's not as elusive as it might seem. Musicality, like any facet of dance, can be developed and honed over time—with dedicated, detailed practice. At its most fundamental, it's "respect for the music, that this is your partner," says Kate Linsley, academy principal of the School of Nashville Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less
The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC

Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.

Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

Keep reading... Show less
In Memoriam
Ross Parkes, right, teaching in Shanghai in 1983. Lan-Lan Wang is at left. Courtesy Lan-Lan Wang.

Notable dancer and beloved teacher, Ross Parkes, 79, passed away on August 5, 2019 in New York City. He was a founding faculty member at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, where he taught from 1984 to 2006. Lin Hwai-min, artistic director of Cloud Gate Dance Theater, said: "He nurtured two generations of dancers in Taiwan, and his legacy will continue."

About his dancing, Tonia Shimin, professor emerita at UC Santa Barbara and producer of Mary Anthony: A Life in Modern Dance, said this: "He was an exquisite, eloquent dancer who inhabited his roles completely."

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox