From the moment Al Jolson sang "Mammy" in THE JAZZ SINGER until the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood, the musical genre was synonymous with the movie capital and the studio system. Musicals are "Hollywood writ large," making optimal use of the vast studio resources that were available at the time and evoking an unparalleled enthusiasm among fans for their counterbalance of "fantasy" and "realism." Yet, these highly successful films have only recently been critically regarded.
In this course, as we tap dance through eight weeks of unadulterated joy, we'll also examine the historic, aesthetic, and cultural aspects of this popular and enduring genre. Topics include the precision choreography of Busby Berkeley, that "Million Dollar Dance Director" of the 1930s who geometrically arranged gorgeous "girls" in intricate and beautiful moving patterns; the wildly popular dance team of Astaire and Rogers, floating through RKO's extravagant art deco sets in the midst of the Great Depression; the 1940s collaboration at MGM of master musical director Vincente Minnelli and extraordinary singer-actress Judy Garland, who blossomed into a mature performer under his camera's eye; and Gene Kelly's marvelous AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, brimming with timeless Gershwin tunes and ending with a 17-minute Dufy-inspired ballet. The course will conclude by considering modern incarnations of the musical genre, including DANCER IN THE DARK (made by notorious Danish "Dogma" director Lars Von Trier and starring Icelandic pop singer Bjork) and Baz Luhrmann's truly revolutionary musical extravaganza, MOULIN ROUGE.
Access course materials by linking to the appropriate handouts: