Monday, February 4, 2008

"Slaughter" Slaughters the Competition

The polls have closed (no, not those polls...) and we have another winner. While not nearly as many folks voted as last time, your voices were loud and clear. I admit, this wasn't exactly a fair contest. But, I needed a new post and wrote in a hurry. The topic posed: "Aside from the popular all-time favorites, my favorite less-celebrated dance is..." The results: 29 votes total, with 16 (55%) for the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" number from Words and Music, 6 votes (20%) for Serafin's "Nina" from The Pirate, 5 votes (17%) for "I Like Myself" from It's Always Fair Weather, 2 votes (6%) for "The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore" from Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and an amazing zero votes for a number I like a lot, "Why Am I So Gone About That Girl?" from Les Girls. More on the loser later, but for now, let's find out more about our winning number.

Again, this wasn't a fair competition, because "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" actually is a popular all-time favorite. As part of the 1948 film Words and Music, it created the only exciting part of the entire Rodgers and Hart biopic as one of their numbers performed on stage. The number was originally written by Rodgers for Broadway in 1937 as the ballet-finale for a musical called On Your Toes. Unlike Gene Kelly's rendition, the original was a comedic ballet choreographed by George Balanchine, and it featured Ray Bolger, as any comedic dance routine should. For the film, Gene shortened the piece by about four minutes, and he changed the tone considerably. The number you see is far from comedic...

Set in a sleazy New York neighborhood, Kelly's Dancer encounters the wonderful Vera-Ellen as The Blonde. The couple dance seductively, and their mutual interest seems to grow as the music changes to a breezy, cheerful melody. Together they enter a saloon that seems to be populated by the city's finest gangsters and prostitutes. The music grows jazzy...the couple is smitten with each other. Vera-Ellen is the epitome of sensuality with her short skirt and seductive manner. Gene is equally seductive in what could possibly be his sexiest outfit as he dances a very masculine "ballet" to win the girl over. But, a rival cuts in...a fight breaks out! All does not end well for this couple in one of the most innovative dance routines ever to grace the screen. It's only seven minutes long, but Gene and Vera manage to convey a wealth of emotion in that short time, all through dance. No words, but plenty of acting through dance. It's a creative celebration of the music, and it shows how effective dance can be at presenting emotion.

And now, join me in watching the masterpiece... And please comment on your vote in the poll! Why do you love this number or not like the others as much?

1 comment:

Sandy said...

I didn't vote for "Slaughter," but I have to say the expression on Gene's face at 4:27 when he turns and looks behind himself is my absolute favorite!! I love the way he could convey the message through his facial expressions!!