January 13, 2007

The story of Vernon and Irene Castle

Ages ago, I TiVoed a showing of The story of Vernon and Irene Castle, a Fred-and-Ginger flick about the founding mythology of modern ballroom dance. I knew of the Castles, of course, but not a lot about them; and (as usual) the effect of the movie was heightened by not really knowing its outcome in advance. When I see a movie like this—which is not now exceptionally well known, not exactly one of the AFI top 100—I kind of wonder about the state of modern film, because despite being a "dance genre" movie, "just" another Fred and Ginger vehicle, it certainly has its share of drama and foreshadowing and suspense, though none of it of the hamhanded variety that makes you cringe at its obviousness. (Well, maybe a little of that.) Modern movies? It seems like, not so much.

That aside, this is a worthwhile movie for anyone in ballroom dancing, if only to see some of the genesis of the different dances we now do, like the foxtrot and tango. Even the samba shows up, indirectly; one scene depicts the "Maxixe"—those x's would be pronounced as 'sh'—which was a precursor to the American version of samba. Even today, the step known as the corta jaca in International Samba is known as a maxixe in American Samba, and this move certainly appears in the movie's Maxixe, as do moves recognisably analogous to samba rolls, voltas, and whisks, although the styling is quite different.

"Food are always in caves. They're like the grocery stores of the ancient world." --Sam Heath

Posted by blahedo at 10:22pm on 13 Jan 2007
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