The Miami City Ballet Company performed a Jerome Robbins ballet in the days when they were dancing live, before the Covid mess.
I love Robbins, but this one was one of the most rewarding and sweet pieces of his I ever saw. It evidences his love of Fred Astaire. What could be bad?
Click on the link above and start the video at the two minute mark. The ballet as I saw it in the theater begins by a screen coming down from the rafters and shows the dance part of the number from this video to the end. Bliss.
Then the screen disappears and onto the stage comes a couple in dressed in a bright color. This takes some getting used to because seeing the tiny dancers compared to the larger than life movie shakes us up. But after a minute or two the audience adjusts and we are back engrossed with the dancers.
The ballet from this point on is one couple at a time each in another bright color dancing variations of what we saw on the screen. It took me repeated viewings to notice this. The music is Morton Gould, and is made up of variations of the Jerome Kern song, “I’m Old Fashioned.”
All of the dancers come on stage together after every couple has finished and the stage is flooded with their brightly colored costumes. Then each couple gracefully sweeps off and returns dressed in black. After a time the stage is again filled with couples – all in black now.
Then the movie screen comes down again and there is a repeat of the number from the above clip of the movie. This time the dancers are all in black with Astaire and Hayworth. Suddenly all of the dancers stop and look up at the screen and watch. In the audience of the Florida theater we all gasp. The dancers, all dressed in black watch a black and white clip of perfect beauty, mesmerized, like the rest of us. It was worshipful, and why not?
There is no way to describe how gorgeous, how literally breathtaking that moment is.
Now it is the orchestra in the theater that takes over as we no longer hear the one from the soundtrack. And now all of the dancers are copying the movements from those on screen.
My emotional reaction was so strong. I sobbed. Heaven.
How does Robbins do it? He does it because he is a genius. That’s all.
I asked about the colored costumes as opposed to the black ones. I thought there might have been a comment on Astaire’s black and white movies. The bright colors seemed imitative of the technicolor movies Astaire later appeared in. I thought Robbins was paying special tribute to the beauty of the black and white Astaire movies. No none seemed to agree with me.
Flash forward to now. I am watching a Dick Cavett repeat and he has Fred Astaire as his guest. And they show us another clip from this same movie, You Were Never Lovelier.
Astaire is trying to impress Adolph Menjou because Astaire wants to meet and dance with Menjou’s daughter from the movie, Rita Hayworth. Astaire melts as he describes to Cavett how gorgeous Hayworth is and who wouldn’t want to meet her?
Here is the clip. It is only the first minute I am stressing, but you can watch the whole thing. Then go back and rewatch the first minute.
This film is from 1942.
In 1944 Robbins did his first major ballet, Fancy Free, about three sailors on leave. They are trying to impress some gals they meet. There are three sailors and only two ladies for them to fight over. They each show off in their own style and personality.
This is the solo of the “Rhumba Boy”:
Now will you look at that? Notice especially in the last moment of this adorable solo how much Robbins took from that first minute of the number in Menjou’s office.
What a find for me! And I get to enjoy the discovery of how much Jerome Robbins was tickled by Fred Astaire.