Feb 122011

Following are two musical acts captured in rehearsal for a televised performance. Both acts feature dance steps in their musical performances. Your mission, should you choose it, is to compare and contrast rehearsal styles, with a focus on choreography, the dynamic among musicians, and so forth.

First, Dame Shirley Bassey, seen rehearsing and in interview on some German tv show:

Next, REM with Kate Pierson, rehearsing “Shiny Happy People” for their appearance on Saturday Night Live…after the jump!

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Nov 052010

I think you can top the pre-teen dance moves by this girl appearing alongside James Brown in this performance of “Hell.” How I used to love listening to this album when I was about 10 years old, hanging out in my uncle’s bedroom and digging his 8-track tapes! I couldn’t dance as well as this girl back then, as now, but I bet some kid other than Michael Jackson and his siblings and “special, little friends” have topped her work. Which kid dancer in will come out on top?

Aug 122010

What’s the best dance in rock? Not best dancer, mind you, but the best dance that almost anyone can do, or at least wish to do? Here Debbie Harry demonstrates the pogo. I can’t say that all do it even half as well as she does it, but if more of us could I’d consider putting the pogo at the top of my list.

Jul 202009

As maybe a corollary to our recent Rock Aldas and Grouchos thread, I’ve been thinking about a few instances of musical and other artistic performances and works that almost singlehandedly justified an entire genre that never previously appealed to me – and that may cause me some pause to this day.

One of my favorite Lenny Bruce bits from his Carnegie Hall Concert album begins with the self-confessed jazz afficianado talking about this relatively new genre of rock ‘n roll. He says that he doesn’t dig most of it, slipping in a mocking chorus of “Yackety Yack,” but that there’s one song out called “Spanish Harlem.” He asks his audience if they’ve ever heard it, quoting the opening verse. “It’s so pretty,” he says. This one rock ‘n roll song has clearly opened his mind to the fact that the genre may contain other gems. Dig?

Tonight, after the kids went to bed, my wife reminded that I could catch the end of the Vincente Minelli-Gene Kelly-Leslie Caron masterpiece, An American in Paris. I quickly turned it on just in time to catch the mindblowing, long fantasy sequence that ends the movie, a scene that chokes me up in recognition of its beauty just thinking about it. Sure enough the sequence got me for at least the 25th time. I’m not a big fan of dance and choreography by any means, but Gene Kelly is by far the one dancer I love seeing in action. He’s so athletic, not showy. I can appreciate him as an athlete more than an “entertainer.” Likewise, the fantasy ballet sequence that brings home An American in Paris strikes me as a work of art that fully expresses the emotional content of the film. It’s not some stitched-in talent show piece, as I find most dance sequences, even in the better musicals. The Gershwin music with the choreography and the choreographed camera work speak to me like no other dance sequence I’ve ever seen. Only Saturday Night Fever‘s big dance to “More Than a Woman” comes remotely close to speaking to me on any level.

Those of you who know me and know my complete lack of interest in dance and musicals may agree with my wife that my love for An American in Paris is the most surprising thing that I love.* I’m still shocked myself, but as I told her, that scene is so pretty and well done that, for me, it singlehandedly justifies the entire art of choreography. It’s the only thing that keeps my mind open even a sliver to the possibility that any other piece of choreography I’ll ever see might contain a shred of worthwhile storytelling and emotional content. I’m still a complete oaf when it comes to appreciating choreographed dance, but at least I’m willing to believe it has a place in the arts.
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Jan 142008

It’s tougher than it seems to make a common, bad song eternally annoying. Try it sometime. It only seems easy because Tom Cruise has managed this feat in countless Hollywood films.

In charging Tom Cruise with Rock Crimes for permanently defiling more downtrodden songs than any actor in history, we’re not passing judgment on his films, his beliefs, or his personal life. We won’t even poke fun at all the ditches in which his leading ladies have had to stand while sidling up to him.

There’s gonna be no dancing

Likewise, we’re not going to pass judgment on the songs themselves. At least one of these songs is actually of high caliber. Although Cruise typically preyed on weaker material, he was capable of bringing down classier numbers.

Here’s a song that sucks in what’s actually a good film. This song is so bad and emblematic of its time that it would be remembered as a stone-cold turd without Cruise’s involvement. However, his pool-cue moves denigrate this song beyond all hopes of simply being forgotten among a brothel full of Clapton’s ’80s skanks.


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