There are many kinds of grace: social grace, grace under fire, Amazing Grace, Grace Jones, and Grace Kelly.
But when it comes to film, it’s hard not to think of the great dancers such as Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron and Cyd Charisse, who graced the screen with their own form of amazing grace.
The movie musicals that Hollywood churned out from the 1930s through the 1950s featured stars such as these who captivated audiences with their charm, style and seemingly effortless dancing skill.
And then something happened. In the 1960s age of realism, the movie musical fell on hard times and all but disappeared. The grace was gone.
As a long-time fan of movie musicals, I’d hoped that the advent of the MTV music video might revive the use of music and dance in film. But let’s face it; most music video choreography, from Michael Jackson to Madonna to Britney and beyond, is less like the graceful leaps of Fred Astaire and more like glorified cheerleader routines.
The amazing thing about the dance numbers in vintage musicals is that the entire four to five minute sequences were often performed in one take, with no camera cuts or edits. The A.D.D.-inducing editing style of music videos chops the dance numbers up into thousands of nanosecond images.
But in recent years, audiences seem to have grown tired of the rapid-cut calisthenics that have passed for dancing in the post MTV era, and are longing to see the skill and grace that was the hallmark of Kelly and Astaire.
And they’re finding it in the most unlikely of places: on television reality competitions such as “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With the Stars.” How else does one account for the massive popularity of these shows?
The “stars” aren’t really stars and many of them can’t really dance. But in these un-edited dance performances before a live audience, when the tango, waltz or Paso Doble comes off without a hitch – it’s a return to grace.