Gene Kelly: Carefree Elegance . . .
In my summer writing course, I broke the monotony by showing videos of dancing styles, and after showing David Byrne in Stop Making Sense and dozens of Russians dancing to Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," I happened to show Fred Astaire and then Gene Kelly on two consecutive days and realized that I was getting at two different styles without really realizing this:
Kelly danced in order to choreograph. It's not exactly the image many of us have of Kelly, whose defining and deceptively casual approach centered on virility and athleticism. He embodied a new ideal of the American male dancer that contrasted with Fred Astaire's debonair elegance. Kelly's elegance was carefree.If I were a better teacher, I could instruct on this difference of style in writing, a difference made clear to me in Gia Kourlas's article, "He Made a Splash, and Dance History: Gene Kelly as Choreographer" (NYT, July 13, 2012). I assume that most readers know both Astaire and Kelly, but if not, the check out every video showing them on YouTube! I merely want to note how he met his wife Patricia when he was 73 and she was 26:
When she met Kelly, she said, she had no idea who he was[, though this is hard to believe]. A self-described "nerdy Herman Melville scholar," Ms. Kelly was hired as a writer for a television special about the Smithsonian Institution, for which he was host. They connected, not through his films but through their love of poetry and etymology. It goes against his image, right?And he taught her how to walk:
Early in their relationship he fixed Ms. Kelly's walk. "I got those 'Pygmalion' lessons," she said with a laugh. "'Go up the stairs. Go back down the stairs.' I'm grateful for it now. Everyone asks, 'Are you a dancer?' He said that I walked like I just got off a horse."That's how I walk, I suspect, but more like the horse itself, and not just any horse, rather, a draft horse, clomping my way around town or wherever.
Maybe I need to watch more Gene Kelly, or Fred Astaire, work on my style . . . but you can see both stylists together here.