At the middle of last week, yet another YouTube sensation was propelled onto the viral stage. No, not an earth-shattering cat video (although they are always very welcome!), but an incredible visual masterpiece from the brain of David LaChapelle, featuring Sergei Polunin performing a truly breathtaking routine to Hozier’s anthemic Take Me To Church. The sweeping direction, combined with Polunin’s sheer acrobatic skill and lyricism has seen the clip amass over five million views online, and has got me thinking about some other iconic dance moments, from both stage and screen:
The Scottsboro Boys
The Scottsboro Boys features some seriously stunning choreography. Susan Stroman’s direction relies heavily on exaggerated physicality to communicate stock character types throughout the show, but it’s in the ensemble dance routines that the production comes into its own. Whether it’s the tambourine shaking Shout!, frenzied tap dancing of Electric Chair or the energetic numbers which top and tail the performance, The Scottsboro Boys is a masterclass in streamlined, slick storytelling- and a production which stays with you long after you’ve left the auditorium.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Believe it or not, this year Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is twenty years old. Bourne’s revolutionary, populist approach to dance has cemented his reputation as one of the UK’s most celebrated choreographers, but when his re-imagining of Swan Lake premiered at Sadler’s Wells, it was enough to prompt audience walkouts and critical controversy. Transforming the corps de ballet to an all-male ensemble is a creative decision which flew (quite literally) in the face of tradition, and in so doing enlivened the piece with a sense of danger, aggression and depth- qualities not previously associated with the stock pieces from the classical ballet canon. Since 1995, the Bourne’s Swan Lake has been performed to audiences all over the world, and has garnered a flock of rightly deserved awards.
Bob Fosse’s stage credits alone serve to mark him out as a dance legend, but before he imagined the iconic physical phrasing for shows such as Sweet Charity, Cabaret and Chicago, he let his own feet do the talking. One of his most memorable performances sees him opposite Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees- offering a masterclass in how to succeed at dancing without looking like you’re really trying. It's hard to imagine what dance today would look like without Fosse's contribution, and even in this performance you get a palpable sense of the signature style which punctuated his later work:
Fred and Ginger
No dance round up would be complete without Fred and Ginger. Predicable, I know, but perfect nonetheless- and a duo which still stands alone as the absolute pinnacle of their profession: