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I really like the way Powell dances.  Her facial expressions really add emotion to her dancing.  Keeler is good also, but different and I can't quite figure out why that it.  I've not seen Keeler in a full movie yet, so maybe I'll figure it out eventually.  

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I love Eleanor Powell, so I might be a little biased, but....

I think Powell seems more experienced and is definitely lighter on her feet. More polished.

Keeler is much heavier.

Keeler always seemed more like a little pixie to me. I enjoyed watching her. She seemed much more innocent. 

But to watch a dancer. It's always been Powell. She was amazing.

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Eleanor Powell has the fireworks--She travels in a way that Keeler does not, at least in these clips. Plus she uses the high kicks and shows of her balance by dancing on one foot for several notes. She comes across as a more complete dancer. Maybe because Powell was able to choreograph her own routines, she had the opportunity to show off her skills. I also notice that Powell uses the taps as a percussion instrument. This is a characteristic of other MGM tap dancers.

I wondered about the shoes that Ruby Keeler was wearing--They add to the feeling that her dance is heavier.

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Eleanor Powell has a confidence and aggression in her dancing that I feel Ruby Keeler lacks. She grins at the camera as if to say, "Look what I can do. Ha! Bet you can't." There is no doubt she knows what she is doing and is proud to show it off. Keeler, on the other hand, appears to be doing exactly what she is told, with capability but no sense of creativity. She lacks the unfettered freedom of Powell's work.

 

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Both are wonderful dancers, but their styles are quite different. My favorite is Powell, because as someone else said here, she’s the more complete package. You can see her ballet background, for example, with the kicks. And she’s athletic yet not without grace. 

Keeler is a stronger tapper in some ways, but it’s more vaudeville and less grace and athleticism, if that makes sense. 

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When viewing the two marvelous dances of Ruby Keeler and Eleanor Powell, sensed that their wonderful talent came from two different places-- figuratively and literally. 

Eleanor Powell displayed an excellently timed dance that displayed the skills of someone who has conscientiously honed her dancing abilities. When watching this video, I would assume that Powell had formal training in some capacity in dancing. 

Ruby Keeler style is more like a Vaudevillian-- raw and infectious. Her voice carries well and is pleasing, but is not trained. I would assume the same of her dancing. When watching the video, I would assume that Keeler has years of singing and dancing under her belt, but little formal training-- which matters not because her pure enthusiasm and stage presences makes up for her lack of intricacies. 

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In "42nd Street," Ruby Keeler was a very pretty young woman who looked good on camera.  She played the doe-eyed ingenue so well because she WAS a show biz ingenue.  Her voice was thin and reedy, she wasn't a particularly gifted actress, and she was so flat footed and slow when she tapped that I can rarely sit through a performance.  But, she was an improvement over actresses in previous musicals, her sincerity really appealed to her audiences, and she was fortunate enough to work with Busby Berkeley.  By her 1937 performance in "Ready, Willing, and Able," she had picked up speed and wasn't quite so flat footed, but she never displayed anywhere near the same caliber of talent as Eleanor Powell. 

 

Powell was just as pretty and had the same fresh-faced girl-next-door quality as Keeler while still being sexy and powerful; and she couldn't sing or act any better than Keeler.  But OMG she could tap!  In "Broadway Melody of 1940," she even out danced Fred Astaire and George Murphy.  Don't get me wrong:  Astaire did a wonderful job, but compared to Powell, he looked almost gangly and disconnected.  Powell brought her extensive ballet training into her tap dancing, and the result was poetry in motion.  She was mature, comfortable in her skin, grounded/centered, and sooo graceful.  Legend has it that Astaire (the consummate gentleman) once told choreographer Hermes Pan that he would never dance with Powell again for that very reason.  He felt she made him look like a rank amateur.  I think it's a shame he didn't give it another go because he definitely did improve his tapping style.  And I so would have loved to see Powell and Gene Kelly perform together.

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Ruby Keeler's dancing felt jazzy, earthy, raw. It tended to syncopate, whereas Eleanor's style felt more polished and elegant, emphasizing the rhythm of the song. Eleanor was poised and almost ballet-like while Ruby's dancing was grounded and solid. Eleanor's upper body was held still to emphasize her intricate footwork while Ruby's movement involved larger, flowing movement that used the whole body.

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