Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #11 (From Singin' in the Rain

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I absolutely adore "Singin' in the Rain" - what a delight! 

First of all, I love the way that they break into this song. They get more and more sing-songy, and then they start bouncing a bit, and, suddenly, it's time for a song! You can see them ramping up for a musical number, but it flows so perfectly. 

I also like the interplay between all three men, but especially Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. While they're synced up pretty amazingly for most of the number, there are moments where you can see that Kelly is the alpha and O'Connor is the beta in this film - even if you haven't seen the entire film. In particular, I noticed when they are using the curtains as a prop. Kelly is standing and belting out a long leading line, while O'Connor is down on his knee, providing a more rhythmic backbeat. Kelly is clearly the star. Then you put in the professor, who is practically a living prop. He does a great job keeping a straight face and looking perturbed as he's being made fun of, steered around, and having stuff piled on him. 

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8 hours ago, BookishLes said:

Rather than comment on the clip, I have to comment on the discussions about “masculinity.” This points to uncomfortable reactions to movies by viewers - they mistake artifice for reality. These stereotypes of masculinity ought to be retired. I am bothered that in the 21st century, qualities like “leadership,”  and “power” are seen as more masculine.  Really? Alpha and beta? is this helpful, or even accurate? Most movies lazily work on tropes and stereotypes, narrowing the already narrow conventions of “masculine” and “feminine.”  For me, this is a disturbing aspect whenever watching older movies.  I find Gene Kelly plays basically the same character is most of his movies — womanizing jerk learns to act a bit better through love.  If that makes him more masculine, perhaps we need to retire masculinity.  

You're right, it's probably better to call it "stereotypical masculine traits." Definitely back in the 1950s (and, unfortunately, still today to some degree), leadership and power is seen as more masculine. Personally, I find the "alpha" and "beta" distinctions helpful (as well as the virgin-w***e dichotomy for women), if imperfect, especially because the narrow conventions of masculinity and femininity were so rigid at this time, and characters fell so perfectly into them so often. I expect when we get to the 1960s-1970s, we're going to see those conventions start to loosen again with women's lib, though the pendulum does tend to swing back to those rigid roles again in reaction.

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1. In the non-dancing movements, both Gene and Donald are very theatrical in their gestures.  The heads (and faces) are constantly moving. And their hands are used to punctuate all the non-singing text. Their playful behavior serves in emphasize just how much they do not want to be taking these lessons.

2. The Professor is the perfect foil for all the playful antics of the guys. And a good straight man doesn't pull focus from the main actors but compliments them. The Professor does this in spades! They first mock him (unknowingly to him)on his teaching style. But once the full out dance begins, the Professor really helps keep all the attention on the performers. The professor is personal avatar as we watch the musical number!

3. The Professor is masculine but educated, very stiff in mannerisms. Gene is obviously the alpha male, very athletic and precise in his dance steps and behavior. Donald, the beta comedy relief male, is looser and goofier than Gene even when they are performing the same steps.

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How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

As the film has progressed, the relationship between Cosmo and Lockwood has always been a great friendship and they have endured many hardships before coming to this point in their lives. In the beginning of this scene, Lockwood is still playing the leading man. He doesn’t quite take the elocution lessons seriously and does the line as he sees it should be done. When Cosmo enters and sees the ridiculousness of the exaggerated consonants and rolling of the “Rs,” he brings Don back into the sense of play. They slowly begin to circle around the Professor. The dance, too, begins slowing. Verbally, Don reads the tongue-twister in a more rhythmic pattern and Cosmo picks it up adding an off-beat. When they finally break out in dance, here too, they are encircling the Professor, keeping him in their obit until he is finally obscured by them.

 

Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

In this case, the Professor plays the ultimate straight man. In the beginning of the scene, he is the “expert,” the one hired to teach elocution to the silent actors in preparation for the advent of sound in movies. He is indignant when he realizes he’s being made fun of. When Cosmo and Don break into the dance number, he is part incredulous to what is happening around him and yet, after being covered by the curtain, he is almost in step with the dancers (but not quite) as he’s being led to the table. He might want to be a part of the fun and yet he doesn’t quite understand them – he puts on his glasses as if to take a closer look.

Lockwood even “invites” the professor to learn a few things as he and Cosmo take turns showing the professor the steps. But throughout this segment the Professor can’t seem to understand what is going on. But in having the Professor on the sidelines watching them, he also becomes the audience. By the end of the number, he is completely befuddled and overshadowed (literally and figuratively) by Cosmo and Lockwood.

 

How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

In this particular scene, Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown mimic their roles before the advent of sound in motion pictures. Lockwood is the leading man (Alpha male) and, although he is out of his comfort zone, he is trying to keep his dignity while learning how to speak “properly.” He stands **** and, initially, saying the words as he might say them on stage, albeit without the accentuation of the consonants as demonstrated by the Professor.

Cosmo Brown, the Beta male, hasn’t taken the motion picture industry seriously up throughout the film, and therefore acts the clown, both teasing the professor and even Kelly by cutting him down a bit.

The professor is a Beta who is trying to be Alpha. He has neither the looks nor the talent to be the equal of either Cosmo or Don, but his position as elocution teacher has put him (he thinks) into an Alpha position. He is easily flattered by Cosmo and continues reading tongue twisters because he believes his talents are being appreciated. When Cosmo and Don break into the dance, he can only stand by and let the frolicking happen around him and he is unable to do anything to stop him.

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Before Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly start dancing, they get in rhythm by reciting the tongue twisters.  The beat of the sayings lead into the beginning of the song and dance.

The professor catches Cosmo making fun of him which makes him a little irritated.  Once the song and dance begin, the professor tries to escape the madness but is pulled back by Don and Cosmo and is forced to watch the show.  The professor seems to enjoy watching, at one point you see him try to get in rhythm with Don and Cosmos as they escort the professor to a different chair.

The three men work will together with Don as the Alpha, Cosmos as the Beta and comic relief and the professor as prim and proper with no sense of humor. When dancing, Don and Cosmos are on equal footing, both dance well together.  They make you feel that they have known each other for a very long time and are in rhythm with each other.  

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1.     How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?  During the Pre-dance movements, the professor is teaching,  the students (Kelly and O’Connor) are standing in close proximity to the professor and quietly feigning to pay attention. We know something is afoot, but we don't actually see it until O’Connor starts to circle and stand behind the professor (mocking him).  They are silently working together, one distracts while the other circles. The professor is so caught up in what he is doing that he has no clue that his students are plotting. Their movements speed up and leads to both actors literally taking over, shoving the professor out of the way and going into their highly frenetic and precise dance routine. During the actual dance, they are working and dancing together as a unit. They  dance all over the room and furniture, and destroy the room in the process.

2.     Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

The straight man makes the comic funnier, he helps the gags to work and he makes the hero seem cooler or more noble. The straight man is necessary. In this scene, the straight man is an obstacle. Kelly’s career is in jeopardy, his trouncing over the straight man is his way of debunking his fears or insecurity about transitioning into the talkies. 

3.     How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

Kelly is the alpha man. He’s the leader, he’s got the girl, the story is centered on him and he’s the hero. O’Connor is the sidekick and comic relief, he supports Kelly, Kelly’s problems are his problems, we don’t hear about his career, or his ambition, and we don’t see his girl. His role is to backup Kelly. He is the Beta man. The straight man / professor seems almost devoid of masculinity. He is similar to some male butlers, hairdressers, clothing store managers from musicals and comedies of the 1930’s. They are not used as men but rather they boobs to be laughed at, belittled, pranked, and generally disregarded.

 

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How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

Their almost prowling steps are foreshadowing the synchronization that will be one of the main elements of the dance.  Also the faces Donald O'Connor makes behind the instructor, reference the comedic elements in the dance.

 

Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

Poor man is treated more like a prop than a living person.  He has the unenviable task of reigning in the juvenile dancers put in his care.

 

How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

You have the wise father figure, the attention seeking alpha male, and the needing-to-please beta male all trying to occupy the center of attention all at the same time.  The father figure tries to control the other two using his vast knowledge base.  The younger alpha male is not impressed.  He often looks at the father figure with an almost amused look, and responds to the instructor with thinly veiled sarcasm.  The beta is just trying to make everyone happy.  Complementing the instructor while mocking him behind his back to please the alpha.

 

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1. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor's dance movements are synchronized with each other, but Donald O'Connor is the comedy guy, so some of his movements are screwball comedy. 

2. He is well-dressed in a suit. He is a hard worker and when Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor is having a joke, he might be shocked that they will be making fun because he takes his job seriously. He might feel out of place, being the only one in a suit and he stands out from Gene and Donald. 

3. Gene Kelly is the Alpha male and takes charge. Donald O'Connor is the "friend" male. The Elocution professor contrasts with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor because he is wearing a suit and Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor are wearing casual wear. Gene and Donald are wearing the same coloured pants and same coloured shirts, but have similar jerseys but different colours. Gene Kelly wears brown and Donald wears green which are contrasting colours. 

 

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I do not know how to post comments to Dr. Ament and Dr. Edwards directly, so I am commenting here: I really enjoyed your June 22 podcast. Great insights! Thanks. 

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1.  As far as the pre-dance movements and dance movements, the pre-dance are comical (behind the professor's back) on O'Connor's part with Kelly being the straight man and then the dance breaks out with both brilliant performances.  Again, whimsical and upbeat.  

2.  Poor professor - he is the lost soul here, starting out strong.  Sorry but I'm one of those people that just loves to watch movies, laugh and be entertained.  I don't get offended very easily.

3.  The masculinity of each man is completely all over the place.  O'Connor, the more comedic, gentler, Kelly, alpha male, yet sometimes silly and the professor's masculinity wavers with the antics of the other two.

Wow, I have never thought so hard about a movie that I watched so many times! You have my intellectual brainwaves electrified.  Thank you.  Hope I'm making sense.

 

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How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

Before they start dancing, they are already starting to bob and draw out words, somewhere between speaking and singing. It helps lead us smoothly into the song and dance, so that we don't question that's where it was going all along. The moves before and during the song match really well with their personalities. 

Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

The straight man is a great tactic that I never really thought about before. He acts to make the whole scene even funnier because his facial expressions show us what the audience could be thinking--look at these crazy dancing guys, what is even happening right now? Haha. He's also honestly good as a prop for them to manipulate and move around. He gives them someone to play to. He is their audience.

How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

The straight man is the proper one. He is wearing a suit and represents a professional and proper person. Gene and Donald are both just super fun. While they pretty much dance the same steps, Gene is always the masculine man {with the muscles} while Donald is the comedic one and much leaner. They play really well off each other and each showcase how spectacularly talented they are. 

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The pre-dance movements are a great arm-up to the actual dance.  "Moses supposes" is enunciated almost choreographically, perfectly as it is about learning to enunciate.  There's a pattern to the dialogue learning so let's bring it to a climax with a fantastic routine!
 

Ah, the straight man.  Oh, the poor professor must endure silliness in order to get this lesson to be a success.  He never really smiles or reacts, just becomes a part of the dance which makes the routine even funnier.
 

Gene Kelly's masculinity is the alpha male- leader of the group.  Donald O'Connor is a follower and adds to the comic situation.  The professor is supposed to be the one who is in charge, to instruct, but becomes part of the lesson in a way he never thought imaginable.

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  1. O'Connor's silly faces show the more playful style of dancing he has.  Kelly's "matter-of-fact" movements show the precise style of dancing he has.   
     
  2. The Professor with his serious personality and not knowing what's going on makes the scene much more fun and delightful to watch because they use him as a living prop to move the scene along.  The rigidness of the Professor also highlights the fluidity of the two dancers and also adds to the comedic effect of the scene where O'Connor and Kelly are literally dancing circles around him, pulling him around, and piling stuff on him.  Great stuff!    
     
  3. O'Connor seems more like the Beta in that he can keep up with Kelly, but has a more gentle yet strong presence to him.  Kelly is the Alpha since he moves with confidence.  The professor is masculine, but in a rigid, old fashion way.  The professor being more older also shows the youthfulness of O'Connor and Kelly. 

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How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?
At the onset O’Connor appears to be the Alpha male as he takes center stage and impishly sets the comedic tone of the number.  After the first tongue twister he pretends to be impressed and by applauding the Professor baits him into a second recitation then third just so he can mock him by making faces behind his back.  When the book is passed to Kelly, Kelly gives O’Connor a sly smile as if he’s now in on the gag and launches into a bouncy rhythm while over enunciating “Moses supposes…” ridiculing the pompous Professor.  They continue conducting one another, building on the staccato  patter, tugging on the Professor’s tie and twirling around him as if he was a May pole with the cadence of the words ultimately launching them into song.  Kelly then takes over as Alpha male, dominating for a moment with booming voice and powerful Caesar-like pose from atop the chair and O’Connor on his knees echoing his verse.  From that point on the clowning transitions into a very energetic routine, in which neither is Alpha or Beta, as they dance side by side, appearing equally matched.  Although I noted Kelly has maybe a more athletic approach, and looks to be working a bit harder with his wind-milling arms, and aggressive steps with bent knees closer to the floor and O’Connor’s movements seem effortless, his body more upright, limbs loose and steps less on the attack (more “Astaire-like”).
 
Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.
Poor Professor, he unwittingly sets himself up as an object of ridicule with his officious, self-important prim and proper demeanor.  (He might have been played by Franklin Pangborn a few years earlier*.) When he finds he’s being mocked he’s in turns flustered, indignant and attempts to regain control of the elocutionary lesson by angrily shoving the book at Don, but it’s too late the zanies have taken over the asylum.  He’s reduced to becoming an audience member as he’s shoved into a chair, then ultimately a mere prop as he’s dragged from the chair onto the desktop where Don and Cosmo all but bury him under a pile of more props.  They even employ the old party gag of lamp shade on the head; and he’s evidently too stunned to react as he remains under a piano shawl with “party hat” (or it is it a “crown”?) teetering precariously on his head to the humorous bitter end.

                                  * The quintessential prissy, fuss-budget Franklin Pangborn
                                                        image.jpeg.16f9e13eb90384c32bbbdad208d40d5a.jpeg

                      
How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?  The effete Professor in his suit and tie with pocket hanky and extended pinky is presented as effeminate.  (And I found myself wondering why the educated and intellectual male was so often portrayed in this manner.)  Cosmo is boyishly charming, his hairstyle and light green cable knit sweater with shirt and tie and collar pin is a contrast to Don’s clearly more masculine attire of a simple knit, dark brown sweater with open collared shirt; class clown vs the football jock.

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You can tell by how O'Connor goofs off, mocks the Professor and the rhythm of the tricky dictations/sentences that there's a song and dance number coming up.  I mean even if there wasn't any predance move, when those 2 are together you always knows a musical number is coming.

The professor watches the men the entire time; watching how they move like he's slightly studying them. He doesn't really get angry or upset that they're goofing off and actually making fun of him but instead he just goes along w/ it. The silliness of O'Connor and Kelly is the complete opposite of the Professors "straight" demeanor. 

 

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1) The pre-dance movements of O'Connor and Kelly are quick and in synch to the Moses Supposes tongue twister. Their big (but not grand) hand movements accompany their lines. It reminds me of when I hear a song that has a good beat and makes me want to dance so I begin to listen to the rhythm by doing small dance movements before breaking into actual dance. The actors' pre-dance is a rising start to what will become their grand, fast and admirable dance movements.

2) The professor is much older than O'Connor and Kelly. He has a stern posture and serious, respect-seeking personality. Although, he does smile when he is teaching them the tongue twisters, he looks proud of himself for knowing them. Once Kelly and O'Connor start the Moses Supposes he looks very serious and stiff, and his eyes pop as he becomes amused that the two young men are saying the tongue twister. While they dance he tries to get away until he is sat back down and dragged from one side of the room to the other. It's as if the roles have been reversed because now Kelly and O'Connor are showing off while the professor just looks at them with confusion yet admiration for their leg-twisting footwork.

3) The masculinity of Kelly and O'Connor are very representative of what we will continue to see during the 1950s. They are all about dancing and singing and having fun. The men are young, active and looking for a good time. They both contrast with the old-fashioned masculinity of the professor. The professor is a serious male who doesn't believe in having fun - only hard work. He is dressed in a classic black suit while the dancers are wearing colorful and comfy clothing.

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1. The predance movements of O’Connor and Kelly are the two men copying and mirroring each other’s movements.  First with their hands, then with their walking around, until they jump on the desk and start dancing. When they are dancing they copy and mirror each other’s movements. So it’s pretty much the same.

2. To be the straight man in this scene would be hard. I think I would laugh every time I turned and saw O’Connor make that face. (Cause I laugh at the scene every time, it’s also the straight man’s reaction.) He also gets a curtain put on his head, pushed onto a table, pushed into a chair, and everything in the room placed on top of him. He doesn’t react except to get upset when he realizes that O’Connor is making fun of him.

3. Gene Kelly is the Alpa Male, he’s handsome and muscular. O’Connor is the friend, he supports Gene while he’s working on his lesson, he also goofs off trying to get Gene to laugh. And the professor is the nice guy trying to teach Gene and O’Connor as they goof off. He doesn’t get mad or make them stop he just goes along with it. 

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I don't care for over-analyzing some fun scenes so I will make it brief.   This bit with the Professor and the less than serious students can be seen in all types of movies - some done better than others.  This is a "goody".   Jerry Lewis uses this same "schtick" years later in "The Nutty Professor" getting the principal to recite Shakespeare and then has him in all sorts of poses with an umbrella for a sword and then wrapped in something to look like a toga - but I digress (a habit of mine).  Gene Kelly does a good job of trying to be the less dominant in the sense that he does not get the pronunciation while O'Connor is correcting him along with the professor.  His mocking him is funny as he is trying not to be caught (i think that was a Danny Kaye specialty also).   I don't get any alpha/beta male thing - just a couple of wiseguys who want to show up the brainiac.  It might be irreverent but it is a musical COMEDY.  And hands down, one of my FAVORITE DANCE numbers of all time.  What IS interesting to me is that Kelly is a bit taller than O'Connor but because of his dance style, he ends up looking a little shorter since he bends more and has a lower plié than O'Connor even when tapping.  

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  1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?
    They already feed off each other and know that the class is a silly waste of their time - they speak well and know that the class is really for their starlet who has horrible elocution.  While the movements don't mirror each other pre-dance, they certainly are still acting as a duo with the straight man for their fodder.
     
  2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.
    He is perfect!  He is initially enjoying being the best teacher and believes that they are really amazed at his perfect elocution, and even after they begin to make fun of him he tries to control the class.  He never leaves the room and allows himself to be physically pulled into their antics.  It is wonderful!  And awful at the same time:)  But it is a musical and suspension of disbelief and all that.
     
  3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?
    I suppose that we know that O'Connor is the 'beta' male, and Kelly is the 'alpha' and the teacher is the 'straight man.'  They each have their role and we understand that without being told.  It really is a great scene!

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1. The syncopated way they repeat their exercises and the way they circle the prof leads us to the inevitable song and dance! Loving Donald O’Connor’s comic relief. He steals the show!

2. The actor playing the prof is pitch perfect as the straight man to the two men who openly show their playful disrespect!

3. Kelly is always the alpha no matter what. O’Connor is barely the beta. The prof is the beta hers. He’s like wait aren’t  leading this lesson? Cute!

 

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On 6/19/2018 at 10:06 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:
  • How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?
     
  • Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.
     
  • How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

Kelly and O’Connor always move as if they are dancing... especially Kelly. Even if he was just walking, he carried himself as if he were dancing. 

The Professor just ends up being a prop. Literally. At first, he thinks he is in charge of the lesson, but that quickly changes. Bewildered is how I would describe him!

Its funny how there is a bit of a switch here. Usually, the more refined and educated types would seem more masculine. Instead, the goofy, off-the-wall artists win by making the professor a mere prop in their dance.

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How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

What appears to be back and forth about the diction lessons is really a setup to the well choreographed dance routine.  These two have basically taken over the lesson and are teaching the teacher. Once Gene Kelly gets the book the banter becomes just as choreographed as the dancing.  There is a seamless movement from the lesson to the dance routine.  It is an example of the increasing use of fluid entry into a musical number.

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1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

It all lines up very well. Their pre-dance movements already have a rhythm, and a sense of musicality. You can tell a song is coming, because they're already starting segue into the dance moves. It's all a very smooth transition.
 

2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

The professor very much believes that he is in control. At the beginning, he's delighted, believing he's taught his two pupils perfect elocution. As the song and dance progresses, however, we can see a growing sense of bafflement. He's utterly confused by this sudden turn of events, as the students take over and turn the tables on the professor. Now, they are the masters, and they proceed to show off their proficiency, both in elocution, and in dance.
 

3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

The professor is stodgy, and obviously a bit uptight. He's used to being in complete control. Kelly and O'Connor, in contrast, are loose, ful of vim, vigor, and vitality. They're footloose, and obviously haven't a care in the world. They already have elocution mastered, and don't need the professor.

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Pre-dance movements set up the rhythm for the dance....almost a verbal dance before the actual dance.

Excellent straight man--kept the shocked, serious look throughout and made the scene even more enjoyable.

All 3 men were masculine in their actions.  The choreography with the dancers jumping on and off the desk and on and off the chairs helped to push the masculine tone to the performance.

 

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This is so silly, I love it!

I notice their pre-dance movements contain a lot of percussion made with their bodies, whether clapping or pounding on the top of the piano, which mirrors the percussion of their tap dancing when they finally start dancing.

The Professor has no purpose other than that of the bumbling straight man that they poke fun of - tying his tie around him, covering him with a curtain, sitting on his lap, and my personal favorite - piling all the objects they can find on top of him. 

In terms of masculinity, the Professor is not portrayed as a masculine character in the traditional sense - he is simply a toy they play with here. Gene Kelly represents the handsome, masculine lead while his friend is there more for comic relief, as seen in his mocking the professor behind his back

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