Lately I have been engrossed in watching dance from classic hollywood of the 30’s and 50’s to that of more recent pop culture. The entertainment world is alluring and fantastic. I know it is corrupted too, but that isn’t my reflection here. In some flukey non-linear way I started to watch Fred Astaire and Michael JAckson and began making comparisons. You are all thinking, ” well of course saM!”. I never saw Fred Astaire actually perform, but I did see MJ back in the 80’s. Join me and watch the similarities and differences in choreography between Fred Astaire and his dancers
( Silk Stockings, 1957) to that of Michael Jackson and his dancers
Despite attitude, social behaviours and cultural agendas of their differing eras Michael Jackson learned a lot from Fred Astaire. They don’t share ‘classy’, but they do share the genius spirit that comes from being possessed to entertain. What is remarkably similar in their entertaining styles is that both locate themselves centre among a dancing body of people. Whether as gang members or the sophisticated possy of well dressed men, MJ and Fred are leading the stage. We know MJ to embody a sexual stage presence despite his weird facial metamorphisis, of frequently grabbing the crotch, while whimsical and chivalrous Fred Astaire uses his humorous charm and cane acrobatics to secure the attention of his audience. Equally true is their theatricality, they both embrace exaggeration for effective story telling.
The freedom to move in suits across the distances of a stage also rubbed off on MJ. As we know the suit is the overarching dress icon symbolizing men, which I doubt will disappear. I say that knowing full well Coco Chanel structured the same for women. I don’t know about you but I am OK with that. Suits can be exquisitely handsome on men and women if they are cut well and fit one’s physique. A black tailored suit or tails with a white crisp shirt have remained current throughout the decades thanks to the impeccable dandy George Bryan ‘Beau’ Brummell (1778-1840) and the evolution of London’s Savile Row fine tailoring. Here’s Fred in Hollywood 1935…top hat and tails…what a happy guy!
If I were to analyze the delivery of their messaging I would say MJ dancing in the second video is flatter technically, constructed from artifice and fantasy with movement compressed to the foreground compared to that of the dynamic, all consuming and motivating presence of Fred Astaire. Michael Jackson expresses the dark state of “dangerous” and Fred Astaire somehow angelically stirs fire, lightening the load of life.
What amazing gestures of human spirit!