Dancing in the Dark

Features

Jan 29, 2021

Dancing in the Dark

Dancing in the Dark

Features

Jan 29, 2021

A nightclub floor show with dancers kicking and tapping under a scrim of cigarette smoke and the murmuration of an indifferent crowd. Couples listlessly swaying in a second-floor ballroom, the men clutching rolls of tickets and the ladies gritting their teeth against sore toes and the press of sweaty palms. A woman strutting on the stage of a burlesque house, ogled by a hot spotlight and accompanied by catcalls and growling horns. These are some of the most common ways that dance shows up in film noir, but not the only ones. (A whole subgenre, which I won’t talk about here, dwells on the dark side of ballet: The Red Shoes, Specter of the Rose, Black Swan, etc.) Film noir flourished in the 1940s and ’50s, a time when dancing was woven into everyday life, and noir uses dance in many ways: for its stylization and its unruly energy, its power to seduce and its capacity to humiliate. It appears as a degraded and exhausting routine, a bewitching spectacle, a romantic interlude, or (yes, even) an expression of irrepressible, if usually temporary, joy. When Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall glide in each other’s arms to the strains of “Too Marvelous for Words” in Dark Passage (1947), enjoying a respite from the angst and dread of living in the hostile noir universe, they embody the romance of dancing in the dark. But it can also be the other way around: sometimes the darkness is in the dancing itself.

Tough Guys Do Dance

In 1948, the American modern dancer Daniel Nagrin choreographed Strange Hero, a brief solo built from the postures and gestures of the movie tough guy, revealing that they require only a modicum of exaggeration to become dance moves. “Constructing this dance was a cinch,” Nagrin said. “The nearest movie house was my source material. The simple, monotonous plot shaped the form of the dance: enter the tough guy armed to the teeth, cigarette drooping from arrogant lower lip. He calmly greets his enemies, smashes one, struts a bit, then the chase, the killing and being killed and killing and being killed and so on, ad nauseam.”

Rififi
Pépé le moko
Stray Dog
The Asphalt Jungle
Gilda
Bitter Rice

0 Items

You have no items in your shopping cart