That's Dancing! Reviews
Gene Kelly splashin' & singin' in the rain? Nope. Donald O'Connor dancin' up 'n down walls to make 'em laugh? Sorry. Fred Astaire's "Royal Wedding" ceiling dance? Nuh-uh. Sammy Davis, Jr. tappin' away? Only for 20 seconds when he's six years old.
Mikhail Baryshnikov, however, is granted twenty full minutes to drag the viewer through a discussion of mostly-obscure ballet artists who all but never worked in cinema. And the film closes with a 1980ish eye-to-the-future extensively glaring at "Saturday Night Fever," "Fame," "Flashdance" and Michael Jackson - while ignoring Bob Fosse's monumental "All That Jazz" altogether.
Two reasons for selections this spotty: First, Gene Kelly as producer made all the final calls on content, so the film is more a reflection of what he personally viewed as pivotal and/or anthropologically significant - rather than a square-on look at the best of dance. Second, licensing issues across studios skew the film's content.
The majority of the look-sees are well less than a minute; that's a reflection of the director's inability to control his desire to cram an entire Century of dance into two hours of film (His original cut was nearly three hours).
The better, more-fully-treated content includes several Busby Berkeley kaleidoscopic creations, a full study/treatment of Fred Astaire (solo & with Ginger), some lesser-seen though strong hoofers (eg, Eleanor Powell, Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson, Nicholas Bros.) and Ray Bolger in a dancing scarecrow number cut from "Oz."
RECOMMENDATION: The viewer will find a lot of interesting, talented dance here - but not all of the best of it.
It's not a perfect documentary, as some of the celebrity hosts just didn't seem to be in the spirit of the production, especially Baryshnikov, but what's great about That's Dancing is that no matter what musicals you have actually seen prior to watching this, I guarantee that you'll still have an enjoyable experience. It'll likely give some more respect to the musical genre and how talented these choreographers actually are. It also makes me want to watch more of the old Hollywood musicals, particularly those of Busby Berkeley, who had some pretty surreal cinematography for 1930's cinema. I'm glad I found this documentary.