Ever seen the movie Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? Sarah Jessica Parker (post Square Pegs but pre-Sex and the City), Helen Hunt (post Quarterback Princess but pre-Mad About You) and Shannen Doherty (post Little House but pre-90210) play the new girl in town, her wild child friend and the hunky dude's sister, respectively. They come together to get SJP and the hunky dude a spot as the new regular dancers on Dance TV. Blockbuster stuff right? Did I mention Jonathan Silverman is in it? I know, brilliant. Anyway, the great thing about this movie (for me), aside from inspired casting, songs that get stuck in my head (Orbital B-Bop? COME ON!) and dance numbers that would make Debbie Allen weep from shame, is when SJP gets that far off look in her eye, twirls one of her massive ringlets around her finger and says "I love to dance..." Now that's something I can get behind!
My earliest memory is of Gene Kelly dancing in the fountain at the end of An American Paris. From that moment on, I was hooked on movies, dancing and movies with dancing. Musicals are great because you've got to suspend your imagination enough to believe that someone could burst into song at any moment. (John Travolta singing Sandy in Grease ? Totally works. Tony singing for Maria and only one girl coming to the window is a little harder for me to believe. At my high school, if you yelled "Maria", fifty girls would turn around.) Gene Kelly always delivers, especially in An American in Paris (that scene when he's teaching the French kids to sing and dance? Magic). But, like most people, I tend to remember him singing and dancing his heart out through rain soaked streets. It never gets old for me. I smile just thinking about it. There's a story Stanley Donen (director of Singing in the Rain) told about how after he screened the picture for Leonard Bernstein, Bernstein said the famous scene was "an affirmation of life." That's what it's all about, right? That's how I feel, anyway.
There was always music and dancing going on when I was growing up (West New York is basically the polar opposite of the town in Footloose). My father played music all day long and he would sing along with his favorite songs. Sometimes he would pick me up and dance me around too. He and my mother would dance at events and watching them together was bliss for me. It was easy to see what a good time they were having. My siblings would practice their dance moves with me before going out with their friends. They used to throw me around like a rag doll and I loved it. The parties at my parents social club were all about eating, drinking and dancing all night long. (You've not lived until you've seen Orlando Pega pick a handkerchief up off the dancefloor with his teeth on New Year's Eve. Women swooned! Ok, maybe they were just concerned that he was having some sort of attack.) Memorial High School dances were the place to be on a Friday night. We would dance in big groups to the same music being played in New York City clubs. Everyone had a turn in the circle to show off their moves, while the rest of the crowd clapped and cheered (Go Artie! Go Artie! was the most common shout out. That boy could dance!).
I still try to dance a little every day. Obviously, full-on musical numbers aren't an option, but I don't need much, really. The right tune on the car stereo will do (I don't drive, so I can flail in the passenger side at will). If I'm at work and feeling silly or trying to get a reaction from a coworker, I'll do a little George Jefferson hustle (not as scary as it sounds, I swear). I dance at home all the time, sometimes just to get Mike to crack-up, other times because the ipod kicks a little Prince my way while I'm cleaning up the kitchen. It feels good, it's free and someone is bound to laugh, even if it's just me laughing at myself.
Would I feel this way if my first screen dancer had been Fred Astaire? Hard to say, maybe I'd be smoother, more controlled on the dancefloor. I do believe that there are Gene Kelly people and Fred Astaire people. I'm a Kelly person. I love that he made it seem like you could be so lost in the moment that singing and dancing in the street would be considered a normal reaction to falling in love or getting a job or being on shore leave. I think that everyone has a right to that sort of moment from time to time without judgment. Maybe not every day, but once in a while, it couldn't hurt to get out there and show the world your moves.