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COMPARE AND CONTRAST Ruby Keeler and Eleanor Powell


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Eleanore Powell was such a smooth, graceful, elegant, dancer who also was outstanding in choreography!  Her smile made dancing look so easy.  She was also an athletic dancer like none seen before.  Born To Dance is her movie, because she was born to dance.

Ruby Keller was a great dancer, and very talented woman.  She was not as smooth and graceful as Powell. Not to take away from Miss Keeler, but Powell was in a class all her own.

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The styles are totally different.  Ruby is a "hoofer".  She dances from the waist down.  Arms are mainly for balance.  This is no put down.  It's just a style.  Powell on the other hand is a 'dancer'.  She dances from head to toe, and finger tip to finger tip. 

 

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Powell is more a graceful dancer of the two, light on her feet, and with a  smile on her face. She put to good use the rest of the cast in the scene and set itself.

Keeler is heavy footed, she seemed to stamp with each step. It seemed to be more of an early vaudeville like to me.

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Both ladies are lovely!  The 42nd street was not as elegant the other movie.  Keeler wasn't in the clip as much so it was hard to compare, but she is a bit more heavy footed than Powell.  I thought Powell was acting through her dancing and was quite humorous and graceful at the same time - those LEGS!  Beautiful.  I suppose I enjoyed her dancing more than Keeler's.  I feel as if I need to see more of Keeler to make a statement on the two.

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Both Keeler and Powell are fascinating to watch.  Powell is more elegant and sophisticated.  Keeler is more back street night club-ish, rougher around the edges.  Powell hints at sexiness--"Look out boy"--a couple of times.  And her dress doesn't go much higher than her knees in her spin.  Keeler (and her song) shimmies and strips (a bit) and wears her shorts, letting you know that sex and violence are part of the story here. 

So--Powell more polished and refined.  Keeler skilled and emotive in her tapping. 

Fun to observe and think about.

 

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Powell’s style shows that she had the classic ballet training by the way she holds her upper body.  Back is straight, arms are graceful, loose and fluid while her legs and feet do all of the work.

Keeler in the other hand is total “hoofer”.  Her whole body goes into the tap.

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From someone who is not an expert in dancing: seeing Ruby Keeler dancing, I have the urge to shout at the TV screen, "Relax, Ruby, relax." She did what she did well, certainly better than I ever could, but she never seemed relaxed. There's a stiffness to her dancing--you see it in her arms, and I've noticed the music slows down a tad in the "42nd Street" number and also in the "Shanghai Lil" number in "Footlight Parade" with Cagney. Sometimes when I watch her I fear that she may fall during the routine. I would rather see Cagney dancing with Eleanor Powell because they both (to my untrained eyes, anyway) appeared ready to defy gravity and just take off. I've read that Powell practiced many hours per day and her feet were often bloody, but she made it look SO easy. And yes, Powell danced with her entire body; it's like she could let her feet dance on their own, more or less, while she coordinated her arms, hands and upper body to whatever was happening in her environment as she danced. And I think Cagney was like that, as well. They were both unpredictable in their dancing--you didn't know what to expect, and that's why it's so fascinating to watch them over and over and seeing something fresh and new each time.

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Both dancers have their charm. But doesn't anyone else think that both ladies are strangely awkward in their own ways? Ruby Keeler is a great tapper but tends to lean over and flail her arms around ungracefully. She's a very sweet performer though, and an endearing personality. I've heard Dr. Ament talk about the ballet training Eleanor Powell had, and she certainly can move around more easily than Keeler. There's flexibility in her dancing but I see very little grace in her movements. (In fact, she reminds me a bit of a specialty dancer in movies at that time named Charlotte Greenwood.)

For grace, personality, and exquisite tap dancing I'll take Ginger Rogers.

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I have always enjoyed the dancing of Ruby Keeler and Eleanor Powell, but having watched these clips back to back, Eleanor is by far the more graceful and diversified dancer. Keeler almost looks comedic as she does her moves and looks very awkward. Powell had style, flair, imaginative and versatile steps while Keeler did not. Definitely my favorite of the two would have to be Powell  I am looking forward to seeing the dancers that are showcased next week  

 

 

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The distinct performance styles of Powell and Keeler are definitely evident. Powell's performance in the first clip was phenomenal. Her facial expressions, acting, timing, the ability to land her direction and blocking all while successfully completing such intricate tap dance choreography was so fluid. She made use of the space as well as the background characters in the scene. She was the center of the production value within the entire clip. Minimal props, yet the scene had a sense of being filled with a large number due mostly in part by Powell's professional dance and athletic abilities while keeping a performance intact.

Keeler seemed to be a bit less capable as a performer when judging the two clips back to back. Her eye line drifted to and away from the camera. She was performing in locked shots and didn't have the same performance dynamics to the scene as an individual performer as Powell did in the previous. Keeler appeared to be the catalyst to a very highly produced scene with endless amounts of moving background dancers, set pieces, costume and wardrobe thus ending the feeling with the idea that the high end production value was more for the compensation of Keeler's inability to execute as precisely as Powell.

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Powell has a more refined "on your toes" style of dance which matches her more "legit" vocal style of an operatic soprano.  There are also clear elements of ballet and other classical training her her dance style.

Keeler is a rough-and-tumble Vaudeville hoofer.  Her technique is about getting the sound and rhythm out, regardless of how it looks.  Similarly, her vocal style is reflected in her brassy, belted alto.

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