Remembering Cab Calloway
Cab turned 115 years-old this Christmas. This short catches his inimitable charisma and talent. It begins in the Cotton Club with a radio announcer sitting at a table setting up the scene for its millions of listeners (and reminding us the Cotton Club was the first to do live national broadcasts outside of a studio and instrumental in spreading the new sounds of jazz and swing across the country). It also contains a short glimpse of the legendary Lafayette Theater's marquee at night (the theatre that was home to America's first black theatre company-- and the place where a very young Orson Welles staged his famous version of Macbeth with an all black cast). It, like the Cotton Club, are long gone-- but both-- and Cab-- live on in "Jitterbug!"
Choreographers are encouraged to reach into the future for dance steps no one has seen on the Savoy Ballroom's legendary dance floor to win the climatic dance contest. Oh, but you need a jump rope! No problem. Our hero and heroine Billy and Tharbis have friends and they smuggled a jump rope past security. The Jump Rope Break is the first time the audience sees this-- up until then "something" was eluded to in the story re their rehearsing. And, of course, it blows everyone away. Oh, yeah....
How about walking upside down as you flip over your dance partner? Or both dancing partners flipping over their Jitterbugging competition? Momo is aMazing.
And then there's these guys....
The Berry Bros are inspiring! How about Billy and Tharbis borrowing some of those steps for the climatic dance contest at the Savoy? Oh, yeah....!
A scene from the optioned screenplay "Jitterbug!" featuring music by Ornette Coleman: "The Artist in America". https://bit.ly/3exUmlL This is another example of music from "The Great American Songbook" being used in the play and screenplay with performing rights secured.
Listen to Gene Kelly
According to his widow Patricia Kelly, it was "anathema" to him to cut away from the dance for closeups of feet and heads or, for that matter, using cutaways to anything.. His reasoning was if you cut away, you lose the dance. He also insisted in showing the body in full figure, something I believe the great director Robert Wise practiced on "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music."
In her FB post, she gives an example of what he considers "anathema." It's from a 1933 short called "Beer and Pretzels." She uses it to show three dancers who inspired his work on the "Sinbad the Sailor" scene from his "Invitation to the Dance" and its worth a watch and a read.
I think Billy and Tharbis could win the climatic dance contest at the Savoy with at least one of these moves. :)
Dance Spirit magazine compiles a LIST of some of cinema's greatest dance scenes. Worth a watch.
Multi-hyphenate with a penchant for writing.