Friday, July 11, 2008
I thought I'd open with an example of pure disco (above), before talking about how the form morphed into other styles. Of course you could argue that pure disco never really existed. You look at it and you can see Broadway and Funk in it, you can even see Doo Wop and some latin moves...and Ballroom! Ballroom's in there! What a synthesis! Of course disco didn't stay disco very long.
When disco petered out the biggest beneficiary was plain old white people's party dancing, which still looks a little bit like disco. The influence that most interests me though, is the one disco had on Broadway show dancing. Broadway helped to create disco and it, in turn, was also changed by it. Broadway was an amazingly flexible and eclectic style as you can see in this clip (above) from "Billy Elliot." This dance even contains elements of Punk.
This is a terrific dance: age and youth in a light-hearted, sweeping choreography that seems to forgive mistakes. The music (by T-Rex) is typical of the disco-Broadway synthesis. It's laid-back, but also jazzy; the kind of thing professional dancers like.
I've posted this (above) before: Fosse's "Everything Old is New Again" dance from "All That Jazz." Disco mixes with Broadway, and it works! Talk about influences! This has Broadway, Disco, Ballet, Jazz, Funk, and "Eccentric Dancing." Man, Fosse was an incredible synthesizer! How do you like the ballet steps Anne Reinking did around the kid creeping on the floor near the end? Can you believe all these influences work so well together?
Notice the music again: another one of those songs that performers and dancers like, but which non-dancers only like when they see it performed. The Isobel Wren video I put up a few weeks ago had a great example of that style.
Another famous synthesis (above), this time from "Flashdance." American musical theater was still creative right up to the early 90s. My guess is that Hip-Hop killed it. Nobody could figure out a way to merge that style that with Broadway. Rock didn't merge well but Disco, Jazz and Funk made the transition beautifully, as you can see above. With Hip-Hop it looks like Broadway met it's match. The great synthesizer couldn't absorb it. Maybe it was designed not to mix, I wish I knew.
The last gasp of the Broadway style was amazing, as you can see in the last three examples here. If any culture in the past had come up with something this good, they'd have made it the official state artform and repeated it for a thousand years without change. With these dancers this incredible style was just one among many.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 5:40 PM