Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/4243
‘Gotta dance!’ How the Hollywood Musical Danced its Way to an Artform
This paper revolves around the Hollywood musical. In its history of over eighty years, has it evolved at all from its meager beginnings in burlesque and vaudeville? Has it changed as an artform into something that is deemed worthy of being called high art?
In such a short essay, only one aspect of the musical will be explored, and that is the dance. In the beginning of the Hollywood musical, the dance sequences were only used as visual effects, either as a number in a ‘revue’, or a show with differing acts of entertainment that were not connected in any way (by plot or theme). Even in musicals containing plot, the dance was always a side-trip from the story; still only eye candy.
However as the musical aged and matured, talented actors such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly became known for incorporating the dance into the plot. They danced to show emotion, to move the plot along, to do all the things that Hollywood had already started to do with the lyrics. It was ground breaking, and along with the films of Rodgers and Hammerstein, marked the golden era of musicals.
This paper shows two examples of the musical displaying that it was a worthy contender to be called high art. Gene Kelly’s Paris ballet in An American in Paris and Agnes de Mille’s dream ballet in Oklahoma are prime examples of just how brilliant the musical can be when it really hits its stride. All art needs time to evolve, and seeing as how the Hollywood musical only started in 1927, at its peak in the 1950s it had really found itself as an artform.