That's Dancing! Reviews
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.
I did really like the first section that showed how dance films were more large scale than they would become, almost more impressive. Then they evolved into less dancers, but you could actually be more impressed by the one or two people shown in their full glory.
The film hits the mid section with a cut scene from the Wizard Of Oz that was fun to see, but then goes onto a ballet section that was really boring.
The final piece of the new, at the time, stuff is really too brief in my opinion. But it does end showing a basic preview of what would come at the rise of the music video with Michael Jackson's Beat It. Great video!
If anything, it was like a long preview for all the great musical films I shall be seeing at some point here on my journey to see every film ever made.
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.