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admanmavo

Bandy-legged dancers in early musicals

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I wonder if anyone would care to comment about the style of dancing shown in early movie musicals. It seems to me that, for want of a better term, bandy-legged dancing was in vogue from the time movies started to talk (and sing and dance!) and it lasted until about the mid-1930s.

 

This is quite evident if you watch MGM star Joan Crawford in some of the studio's early musicals -- there was one made, I think, around 1929 to showcase the studio's musical talents, and also in the dancing of Ruby Keeler in many of the Warner Brothers films directed by Busby Berkeley.

 

Also, many of the chorus lines danced this way -- awkward-looking, bent legs, not very professional. I have a feeling that this dancing style might have emigrated from Broadway musicals, because, as we all know, Hollywood borrowed freely from the New York musical stage during the first years of sound films...they simply had no other sources of talent at first.

 

Then, in the middle of the decade, all this seemed to stop. Perhaps it was the effect of the wonderful Astaire-Rogers films or perhaps other people within the film industry realized that a better way of dancing had to be developed.

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I think this was a hold-over from the ?Charleston? dancing of the 1920s. I think Joan Crawford just made up her dancing style in the late ?20s. See ?Our Dancing Daughters?.

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Ruby Keeler was cute, but her dancing always sounded to me like a cattle stampede in Dead Man?s Canyon or a bunch of drunk cowboys in hard-heeled boots running down a boardwalk.

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This is what shearerchic had to say in the "Gold Diggers of 1937" thread over in "General Discussions":

 

"Ruby Keeler was the first tap dancing star of motion pictures. She was a Buck dancer. Both the shoes and the style were different from regular tap dance. Instead of metal taps, the soles were wooden, and hard. Buck dancers stayed in relatively the same place on stage, and their concern was the rhythm coming from their feet, rather than how they looked on stage. They stayed on the balls of their feet most of time, which meant that their torsos moved very little, and the movements were isolated to below the waist. Because of this style of movement, the early Buck dancers often appeared less graceful in comparison with later tap dancers. ..."

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