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Gene Kelly 100th anniversaryHow many ballet dancers did he inspire?


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#1 kbarber

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 04:42 AM


[size=3]Happy 100th birthday to Gene Kelly, who inspired so many boys who went on to become ballet dancers to take up dancing in the first place, in a society generally hostile to boys doing ballet. John Neumeier is among those who mention him as an inspiration. But I am constantly coming across other instances of other dancers who do likewise. For instance, last year a group I took to New York met NYCB's Troy Schumacher, who though only in his early 20s, said he was inspired to dance by watching old Kelly movies. The ballet world, I think, owes Gene Kelly a huge and possibly unacknowledged debt. I'd be curious if anyone knows of other ballet dancers/choreographers who cite Kelly as their inspiration/idol etc.[/size]


#2 bart

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 04:53 AM

Damian Woetzel (former NYCB) comes to mind. Woetzel is the first recipient of the Gene Kelly Legacy Award, created to celebrate the 100th anniversary.

This is a very special honor for me," explained Woetzel, who performed at a 1992 tribute to Kelly when the dancer was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the School of American Ballet. "Mr. Kelly was dance itself, he made dance out of the things we do every day, he made us all dance in the rain, and the joy he brought to the world resonates strongly and always will. To receive this award in his name is profoundly moving and inspiring; he is a true hero for me.


http://www.aspeninst...ural-gene-kelly

Off Topic: I'm not a dancer or a choreographer, but I do recall trying several times as a child to improve on one of Kelly's Singing in the Rain moves, by swinging around a lamp post. I failed each time, though learned that this feat is best attempted with cloth gloves rather than bare-handed. Also: mothers do not appreciate your stomping round in rain puddles in your best leather shoes.

#3 kbarber

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 06:52 AM

and another one: Edward Villella. Great tribute to Kelly from NPR here:

#4 kfw

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 08:00 AM

Off Topic: I'm not a dancer or a choreographer, but I do recall trying several times as a child to improve on one of Kelly's Singing in the Rain moves, by swinging around a lamp post. I failed each time, though learned that this feat is best attempted with cloth gloves rather than bare-handed. Also: mothers do not appreciate your stomping round in rain puddles in your best leather shoes.


Posted Image Gene Kelly, bad role model!

Actually, the following from the NPR piece shows him to be a wonderful, liberating role model:

Kelly was living proof that male dancers didn't have to be "effeminate" — shouldn't be stigmatized as "sissies," which regrettably was the prevailing opinion in those days.



#5 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 09:20 AM

It is unfortunate that Kelly always felt the need to come on butch -- he was tormented as a kid because of his dancing, even gave it up for awhile because the hassling was so hard to take. As the PBS special "Born to Be Wild" demonstrated, such anxieties and the apparent need to assure the public that male dancers aren't a bunch of big swishes - and I don't see what would be wrong if they were - are still very much with us. It's too bad.

The ballet world, I think, owes Gene Kelly a huge and possibly unacknowledged debt.


Certainly he was an active proselytizer for dance in general and ballet in particular, although his own gifts didn't really lie in that direction.

#6 kbarber

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 09:52 AM

It is unfortunate that Kelly always felt the need to come on butch -- he was tormented as a kid because of his dancing, even gave it up for awhile because the hassling was so hard to take. As the PBS special "Born to Be Wild" demonstrated, such anxieties and the apparent need to assure the public that male dancers aren't a bunch of big swishes - and I don't see what would be wrong if they were - are still very much with us. It's too bad.

The ballet world, I think, owes Gene Kelly a huge and possibly unacknowledged debt.


Certainly he was an active proselytizer for dance in general and ballet in particular, although his own gifts didn't really lie in that direction.


What I meant was, how many ballet dancers would never have become ballet dancers if they hadn't been inspired by Kelly to at least dance.

#7 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 10:08 AM

Oh, absolutely. But I was thinking more of his efforts to promote dance as an art form and to expand the possibilities of dance, particularly ballet, in cinema. (Alas, his most radical experiment in that direction, "Invitation to the Dance," did not work. And I can't really say I'm a big fan of those set-piece dream ballets. But they were influential at the time and even today they may be the first look that some people get to ballet in any form.)

#8 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:19 PM

My mom is a fan. She has always included him with nostalgia in her series of names of the lost Americana-permeated society of her pre-Castro childhood/early adolescence. As per me, "Jack and the Bean Stalk" was one of my first films ever...Posted Image

#9 kfw

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:54 PM

It is unfortunate that Kelly always felt the need to come on butch -- he was tormented as a kid because of his dancing, even gave it up for awhile because the hassling was so hard to take. As the PBS special "Born to Be Wild" demonstrated, such anxieties and the apparent need to assure the public that male dancers aren't a bunch of big swishes - and I don't see what would be wrong if they were -


Nothing. But Kelly probably gave some guys who weren't the courage to dance too, and that's all to the good.

#10 dirac

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 03:00 PM

Encouraging boys - any boys - to dance is a positive thing. My point was that I find the line Kelly felt impelled to take was/is a depressing one – essentially trying to define dance as a macho athletic activity and thus removing the "taint" of effeminacy (and femininity). Unfortunately, surprisingly little has changed.

I can't think offhand of any other ballet dancers or choreographers inspired by Kelly, but -- off topic -- Balanchine's regard for Fred Astaire is well known. (Astaire also received fan letters from the likes of Fonteyn and Baryshnikov. He didn't much care for ballet, as it happens.)

#11 kfw

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 03:28 PM

Encouraging boys - any boys - to dance is a positive thing. My point was that I find the line Kelly felt impelled to take was/is a depressing one – essentially trying to define dance as a macho athletic activity and thus removing the "taint" of effeminacy (and femininity). Unfortunately, surprisingly little has changed.


I agree. I just wanted to clarify my own point.


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