Cinedance, Dance in Cinema, and Dancing Cinema

2.1 The 1930s: The Golden Era of Dance in Film

Two trends can be identified in the films of the 1930s that feature dance. On the one hand, dancer Fred Astaire sums up his position very clearly in the statement: Either the camera will dance or I will.[13] He sees the entire cinematic apparatus as being at the service of the dance. He believes the camera should follow the dance in long shots with as few cuts as possible, and that the dancers should preferably be shown in full body view. The choreography set to a continually played musical work should also constitute a continuum. The distinctive properties of cinema are concealed in favor of the illusion of a stagelike performance.

Busby Berkeley, on the other hand, developed an approach that exploits the possibilities offered by certain cinematic techniques. For a start, the setting generally extends far beyond the architecture of the stage. But most of all, Berkeley breaks ranks with the monodirectional perspective of the theater spectator. Numerous cuts offer the viewer different perspectives, which at the same time are attuned to the rhythmic structure of the music. Berkeley’s trademark is the top shot — a direct overhead camera angle that shows the dancers in abstract formations, reminiscent of Oskar Fischinger’s figurative choreographies. One example is the water choreography for By a Waterfall in Footlight Parade (USA 1933).