Monday, May 14, 2007

Substitutes, Good Luck, and Angels

I was awakened at 7:45 this morning.
I am not a morning person. Ever since I was in 9th grade, I never went to bed before 1 am. I would watch the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder after Johnny Carson. Such interesting topics that you couldn't hear at 8 am. That and late, late movies.

So I got an urgent call from Beverly asking for emergency class coverage. She had a medical situation that needed taking care of. Emergency or not, I cannot face the day without a morning shower. A looooooong one. I told her I would be at school in 40 minutes.

40 minutes later, I arrived and set the beginning of a tap dance. Woo - woo. Accentuate the Positive. I started as a tap dancer. She showed up about 90 minutes later and I handed her class back to her, but only after I had set a revival meeting type beginning. We shall see if she keeps it. At least, I kept the girls from running amuck.

Headed to the office, where I now sit, and took care of various scheduling and meeting issues.

While Robin and I were working, a nice guy (Bill) showed up inquiring about DancePlace. Our building is part of a renovation of the old Naval Training Center (NTC). It seems that he had gone through a program here (in our very building) in '89 that was (is) called BOOST. BOOST was (is) a compressed program that prepared enlisted personnel who demonstrated potential to earn a college degree and commission in the Navy or Marines.

So since he was zooming by on his motorcycle, he wanted to peek in. Turns out our offices are where he had his literature classes and he took physics and math upstairs. Works for me, since I was always more comfortable with literature than math.

Anywho, he left his card and maybe we can convince him to help out his old (new) alma mater with a little pro bono assistance. He works in web design.

Thats about it. Getting the entertainment geared up for both the SDB Fundraiser (on the 2nd of June) and the SDPAL Star Awards (on the 12th). I had a great bit of luck. I am doing a Joplin ballet next year. I set two pieces for our Intimate Studio evening but I had choreographed some Joplin pieces years ago for some programs we did with the San Diego Chamber Orchestra. We try to video tape everything as a record, but we don't always. And contrary to popular belief, I don't remember everything I set.

So I was HOPING that we had been forward thinking enough to tape it, so I could re-set the old numbers for the auction. as a sneak preview. Robin didn't think we had. But lo and behold, I went to the Video Vault and there was a single video tape that said "San Diego Chamber Orchestra." So I am saved having to start from scratch. Huzzah!

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing Cheek to Cheek.

In the movie...

Where to begin?...

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (for those of you who don't know) were (ARE) the GREATEST dance team in movie history.

Did I say the greatest dancers? NO!

I said the greatest dance team.

In the 30's and 40's, they made ten movies together: Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, Shall We Dance, Swing Time, Carefree, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and The Barkleys of Broadway. Some were more memorable than others. All made lots of $$$$ at the box office. Of these, Top Hat is the highest grossing,

Many Rogers and Astaire afficionados point to Swing Time as being the pinnacle of their accomplishments (and the specific number, Never Gonna Dance as THE pinnacle achievement.) But to put it bluntly... they are fools.

In the BIG SCHEME OF LIFE, its all about Cheek to Cheek.

Yes, Never Gonna Dance is more accomplished, but it is almost as if they are trying too hard. The look like dancers. In Cheek to Cheek, they look like they are DANCING!

If you consider yourself a dance fan, you must watch this dance. The movie itself is not necessarily necessary, but it is cute and gets you in the mood. But you DO need to see the vocal set up where Fred sings the song to Ginger as they dance.

If the dance doesn't "send" you when you watch it... Then you must watch it again... And if it still doesn't move you... WATCH IT AGAIN... if after repeated screenings you are still not transported to a higher plain of consciousness, then you are, quite simply, spiritually dead and all your taste is in your mouth. So there.

The dance is certainly of its time. The music becomes huge and romantic and Rogers and Astaire dance with a fullness and passion that is quite simply not matched in their more refined dances. The only thing that comes close is the number "Face The Music and Dance" from Follow The Fleet.

There are many legends and myths surrounding the Astaire/Rogers team

"They hated each other." This is not true. They respected each other immensely, but quite simply had no romantic feelings towards the other.

"Fred was a perfectionist, who worked Ginger into the ground." Ginger was just as driven as Fred was. As a matter of fact, when she wasn't making the movies with Fred, she was busy cramming as many other film projects in as she could.

"Fred was the better dancer of the two." Who cares!?! Get a life!!!

"Fred hated this dress." This is true. Ginger took a lot of interest in her costumes. This particular dress was white satin with light blue ostrich feathers. And anything with that many ostrich feathers is going to start molting when you start dancing in it. So every time, he would touch her feathers would come off on HIS tuxedo, which HE was very particular about. In the final shot, if you look hard enough, you can see the occasional feather flying off. But then you are looking at the wrong thing!

That said... the dress MAKES this dance. This number transports you to another place. Rogers' dress is like a mist that encases the couple's movement.

The immortal first lines of the song... "Heaven... I'm in Heaven and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak and I seem to find the happiness I seek, when we're out together dancing cheek to cheek."

it is quite telling that this dance is used in at least two other movies. In the thoughtful, haunting "The Green Mile," the wrongly accused saint on death row has a last wish. He asks to see a "flicker show." In an empty theater, he watches Fred and Ginger dancing this number. As he watches he says. "Angels. They's Angels." Moments later, he is executed.

In Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cario, the heroine (a movie buff who escapes form her horrible life during the Depression by going to films) has just had her life destroyed. She walks in shock into a darkened movie theater. The movie is in progress. It is Top Hat. Fred and Ginger begin to glide into their eternal dance and slowly this woman who has lost EVERYTHING, begins to smile.

Cheek to Cheek is not just movie magic.
It is magical.
The swoops.
The swirling lifts.
Rogers' fast running steps.
Astaire's exquisite carriage and sophistication.
The juxtaposition of tension and ease with which they pull against each other as the create beautiful FULL plastic shapes.
Their unified purpose. They are so in sync and harmonious.
It is sublime.

Sublime: worthy of adoration... lifted up or set high... that which is grand in nature or art, as distinguished from the merely beautiful.

Sublime AND eternal.

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