Tap Dance and Cinema

On 6 November 2012, Steve Connor gave a talk entitled ‘Two-step, Nerve-tap, Tanglefoot: Tapdance Typologies in Cinema’ for the Screen Media Research Seminar in Cambridge. He argued that, for all the air of sophistication of cinema’s exponents of tap dance, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Gene Kelly, tap dance reminds cinema of its origin in the display of novelties and curiosities. Cutting athwart its slick synchronicities and syncopations, tap dance always acts as a kind of decomposition of cinema to its primary elements of sound and movement, most importantly in its play with the mechanisation of human bodies. Tap dance therefore seems to provide an elementary form of cinema’s transactions between body and image, labour and laughter, gravity and light.  Using examples drawn mostly from Hollywood musicals from the 1920s to the 1930s, the talk developed a reading of tap dance as cinema’s crippled self-transcendence.  Read the text of the talk here.

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