Stormy Weather from most of the reviews I have read is a movie which is considerably one of the best musicals ever produced in Hollywood. With the rich dance routines used to add much value to each of the scenes, most reviewers have always treated it as entertaining and informing especially in the area of dance. With such positive reviews, my expectations before watching the movie were raised especially by the attractive reviews of the former audience. The fact that the movie is a musical was one of the most attractive spots for me. I was looking forward to interacting with unique dance styles and moves as choreographed by some of the most celebrated entertainers in America, for instance, Bill Robinson and Lena Horne. These expectations were adequately met as I watched the movie. The aesthetic and symbolic values of the various dance scenes in the musical were prominent and could be easily decoded by watching the film. The movements were effectively coordinated hence from the presentations it was possible to deduce the theme of romance as one of the core aspects highlighted in the movies plot.
While watching the movie, I was also able to deduce the place of accompaniments in dance. The accompaniments to dance can include vocals or background instruments. In order to achieve the aesthetic function of the dance, the dancer has the core responsibility of noting the variations in the playing of the accompaniments. The decoded variations are then fused into the dance in order to express the desired message. A dance, therefore, has to pass a message to the audience. With respect to this, I can note that the various dance scenes in Stormy Weather were carefully structured hence the effective depiction of the theme of love and romance. The movie also uses the aspect of dance to explore socio-cultural themes. The analysis of the selected scenes shall seek to illustrate how dance has been used in the movie to depict the themes of romance and socio-cultural lives of the black Americans.
Through the dances, without much action, it was possible to note the American way of life especially in terms of their social relations. Through the accounts of Bill Williamson, the main character played by Bill Robinson, the audience is treated to a smooth transition from a rough environment symbolized by World War I into a more peaceful surrounding characterized by music and dance. The movie, therefore, depicts music and dance as one of the key points of relief from a stressful and challenging life. Williamson does not become famous as a World War I veteran but music and dance shoot him to fame almost immediately. This illustrates the special place that was given to dance both in Americas history and in its current society.
Right form from the beginning of the movie, the theme of romance and love is quite evident as depicted by Bill Robinson who is the main actor. After returning from World War I, Bill Williamson tries to pursue a career as a performer. During his escapades, he approaches Selina, a beautiful singer which sees the beginning of a romantic relationship. Most of the scenes then begin to revolve around the lives of the two expressed through various performances and dances.
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The different dance scenes in the movie serve well to depict the on- and off- romantic life of Robinson in addition to offering the audience a perfect flow of the story of his life. Their lives intersect in various night clubs and theaters where they meet as performers. The film, therefore, uses dance and music as the main artistic approach which brings the two individuals together. Through the dances and performances at the theaters, both Robinson and Lena build, albeit slowly, a strong romantic relationship between them. The scenes tend to depict dance as an art which enhances a unifying factor. Apart from the meeting between Robinson and Lena, the musical and dance performances also bring together other prominent entertainers in America including Ada Brown, Fats Waller, and Cab Calloway.
The ability to express oneself through dance requires a high-level concentration and coordination of the different body parts. The dance scenes in the movie show that right from the medieval periods, dancing has become a popular culture among many societies. This performance art form basically consists of human movement derived from purposely selected sequences. The effectiveness of a dance can, therefore, be gauged by the measure of both its aesthetic and symbolic value. This implies that any given dance always revolves around a theme hence at the end, it is meant to communicate a desired message to the audience. Like any other genre within the artistic fraternity, the choreography of a dance ought to be such that the piece achieves its intended function. A dance may either be prepared with the objective of it achieving a competitive, social, martial, ceremonial or a sacred function. What story does a dance tell?
Illustration of American History: Performance of a Cakewalk Dance
In the cakewalk dance scene, the dancers fuse a pair of organized slow steps with an occasional tapping of the legs as starred by Robinson. The style used by Robinson in his singing and dancing is distinctive. In most of the scenes, he does tap dancing and includes ensembles as the main source of accompaniment for his pieces. Apart from the dance moves, the attires carry a significant symbolic value as they serve to represent the history of American culture and dance, especially among the black Americans. For instance, during the performance of the cakewalk, the dancers are featured putting on headdresses made of flowers which carry many symbolic functions. The attire is used to depict how the Black Americans male were misrepresented in the past centuries. The headdresses are reminiscent of little Black Sambo figures which were used in history to show the misrepresentations in the societal structures. The movie involves a number of dance scenes all of which carry a unique significance with respect to the main theme in the film.
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History of Dance Illustrated in the Movie: A Dance by Dunham and the Ensemble
The most interesting dance scene for me comes during the break in Lenas home. In this scene, Katherine Dunham together with her dancers performs a modern version of the blues. In the opening sessions of the dance routine, the dancers lean forward on each other, a movement which carries with it considerable symbolic value. The dance in this scene can be considered as a celebration of the black social dancing which had been prominent especially in the 1920s. The music, in the second section, then progresses to a more Jazzy form where the scene is now converted into a tropical stage set. The dancers appear in revealing costumes and Dunham does a dreamlike solo in the middle of the ensemble. The choreography in this dance scene comprises a combination of both modern dance moves and ballet movements characterized by different traditional Spanish and oriental touches. While the traditional elements enhance the social aspects of the Blacks in the past, the modern styles used in the dance scene largely illustrate the theme of modernity.
The movie which runs through an hour contains elements which adequately depict a number of aspects with respect to the history of America. The cast comprises mostly of black while the dances basically depict themes which reveal the social lives of the black Americans both in history and in the current world. The film which is weaved from a combination of both modern and ancient styles serves to offer the audience the kind of transition which has occurred within the black American society. This can be emphasized by the dance scene stared by Dunham in Lenas home. The dance comprises a blend of both modern and traditional styles which symbolizes the history and modern lives of the Black Americans. As such, we can conclude that the film contains aspects which support modernist themes.
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