Showing posts with label dancing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dancing. Show all posts

Monday, 16 May 2011

Spike Jonze Presents: Lil Buck and Yo-Yo Ma (2011)

   It's not often that collaborations turn my head like a topspin, though judging by 2009's fling with Uniqlo, I reckon that the rather good Opening Ceremony have a facility for a damn fine get-together

   This number was presented by Jonze for OC's blog

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Karaoke Shippai

   With my own personal Leather Lust Objects on my feet, a body in mod's clothing, a spring in my step and a song in my heart, I decided to go forth and take the microphone. No, there's no surviving audio - what do you take me for, a Guantanamo Bay interrogator?

   The object lesson of the night was to keep me away from hits that require an upper register, though one cannot discount my comedic falsetto when performing Timberlake standards. Basically, 'Paint it Black', 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' and 'Johnny B. Goode' are serviceable. 'Simply The Best' and anything sung by Axl Rose are not. Unfortunately

   I even found a little moment to do my dance - this must have been during 'Like A Prayer':

   And then it was over

   Postscriptum: Jacket sleeves and sides adjusted by Graham Browne Tailors

Monday, 28 February 2011

Dance For Imaginative Miss Potter

   I have had Tales of Beatrix Potter on my mind of late. Perhaps it's the delightful music that accompanies the fleet of feet in its performance. Perhaps it's the surreality of ballet, the kinetic interpretive expression of passion, composure and the vagaries of life, executed by professionals garbed in outsize 'human animal' costumes. Perhaps it's Oscars Night and I am musing over whether Black Swan's chances would increase had Natalie Portman danced in an outfit representing an anthropomorphic cygnus in a bonnet

   If the talking animal genre has elements of parody in its whimsical little heart, then this might be its apogee: humans dressed as animals that behave as humans, yet lacking any discernibly natural behaviours beyond the motions of the dancers, wearing eyes that remain utterly unmoving and mouths that never part, making no sounds to complement their hybrid disposition. Like The Nutcracker, such a fever dream of the stage requires a child or a childlike mind to see such things as they should be; playthings brought to life and their absurdities then rendered through a slightly off-kilter (in its own right) yet resolutely elegant medium. It is also a testament to the varied methods for telling a well loved story

   Besides, this sort of fun is the perfect gateway drug for ballet if one wishes to start them young. For this arrested developer, it's very much perfect

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Smoking Shirt (Dance Dance Dance)

   Tintin said:

   So, I wonder what he would make of this:

   A flashback to more immobile times follows:

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Old Face

All photographs are copyright of Dean Chalkley via Creative Review

   I've never given much credit to those who treat their existences as an extended costume party, even if I'm fond of their references. In cloning the past, usually in a bid to protest against much of the cultural change since, the reenactors normally, and shamelessly, forego personal originality entirely

   If you've an eye for detail, a knowledge of useful resources, a love for vintage and hate the modern shopping experience, period dress is all too easy. And often too boring. To me, that seems like a rather celebratory admission of a poverty of thought, not unlike a wasted weekend

   This is why I champion costumes that actually personalise their historical exhumations. The various outfits worn by the BBC's premier alien, the Doctor, for example, all respond to archetypes such as "Edwardian," "Continental," "Dandy" and "Hoxton Professor" but usually bend those confines in a way that can be recognised as individual creativity (the artful dishevelment and idiosyncratic footwear of the Scots Doctors, Tennant and McCoy; the mastery over sartorial excess of Pertwee; the clownish yet slightly dignified inverse of Hartnell's attire sported by Troughton and, mandatory for such discussion, Tom Baker's scarf), nevermind that the costumes are ultimately decided and realised by a designer and the showrunner, alongside the actor, if their input is appreciated, that is (pity poor Colin Baker)

   Parallel to this, designers who will tweak conventions and rethink standards are my kind of creators - my Junya Watanabe (whose latest aesthetic nods to the subculture on display here) preference is emblematic of this stance. And what he does with the 20th century's traditional male silhouette, certain musical albums from his homeland dissected in this column have been doing to music once thought to be irrelevant in modern times with the prepotency of near or full genius

   Therefore, what most entices me about The New Faces photographs of eight retro-mods was not the garments of the gang but the eye of their beholder, Dean Chalkley. In a London that has never quite fallen out of love with Mod - one need only visit Topman to confirm this - it's simple to understand how this has come about, but Chalkley is talented enough to make this interesting and masterfully arranged. Forgetting the attire for the moment, there's something of the actual 1960s cultural snapper about his work, from the way that the subjects' goofing around transforms the traditionally sterile studio setting into a groovy, expansive playground through sheer energy (or, in the case of early Doctor Who, a clinically flat alien land) to the emphasis on capturing and advocating their self confidence and love of clothes

   The photographs exemplify Chalkley's fashion shoot stylings in their generally full length compositions, detail-framing closeups and undistracting settings, and so are unambiguously focused on the looks and attitudes of their subjects. They're also consummately professional and designed in a way that is redolent of the black and white music television that this group undoubtedly loves. It's unsurprising that Chalkley relates to them; having performed assignments for Ben Sherman and taking a suggestion from Paul Weller as the name of the show whilst photographing him, he first met them at the club night he runs in London's Highgate. They share a common affection for music, clothing, and the synergy thereof, and particularly that of a certain time and place. And he cannily suggests their hobbies by photographing their dancing, neatly underlining that synergy that has brought these people together

   Ultimately, I always preferred the Peacock Revolution, but I could never discourage an interest in dressing and dancing amongst the young

Dean Chalkley. His sense of style is not unappealing

   The New Faces exhibition is currently at The Book Club in London until April 29th. The Jukebox Jam record label has selected a run of limited edition seven-inch vinyl reissues of obscure 1950s and 60s US rhythm and blues to "soundtrack" the show; clips are available on Chalkley's website

Monday, 25 January 2010

The Bojangles Post

The Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson Monument in Richmond, VA

   Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson (1878 - 1949) is the perfect representative of a favoured archetype of mine; the energetic, sharply dressed, dynamic hoofer of the early 20th century. Alongside Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers and, of course, Fred Astaire, he is also an ideal exemplar for the freedom, precise lines and pure élan of skilled tailoring. His capacity for generosity, dignity and rising up against all the odds that faced him are also excellent guidelines for living

   As a man of motion, his jackets gave him the freedom to perform his steps whilst looking his best. Look at how the low padded shoulders and the height of the armholes combine to allow him near-unrestricted movement without distorting the garment’s structure. The sweeping belly of his lapels and loosely structured fit add to his energy and agility immensely

   For those who appreciate my use of full cut trousers, this is where it comes from. What gives Bojangles the edge is that he has no need for my kaleidoscopic enthusiasm; his flamboyance lies in the cut, which is simply of its time


   There is any number of reasons as to why his style has not passed on into public legend, but he is as admirable to me as Cary Grant is to everyone else. Ever complimentary of other footwork talents, Astaire’s tribute to him in 1936's Swing Time may be history’s only relatively passable example of blackface, and I say that because I've no real reason to doubt Astaire's sincerity:

   Unexpectedly, his baton was taken up briefly in 2003 and 2004, by, of all people, in the ‘Hey Mama’ video and Usher in ‘Caught Up’, respectively. The choice of garments and silhouettes, along with the fact that both men use the videos to highlight their skill as dancers is indicative of inspiration, if not tribute

Dancing alongside Shirley Temple

   I wouldn’t go as far as to include myself as part of his legacy, although an uncle of mine teasingly referred to me as ‘Bojangles’ after I danced with everyone in sight at a recent wedding reception. I still can’t say that I’m not flattered

   Let's hear it for Mr. Bojangles

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Loaded With Soul

   As well as being the perfect Sunday afternoon motion picture delight if one's in the mood for song, dance and gentility, genre classic Easter Parade is pure escapism, firing-on-all-cylinders showbiz creativity and catnip for satorial details fiends

   In my favourite sequence (with all due respect to 'Steppin' Out With My Baby' and 'We're Just a Couple of Swells'), Fred Astaire goes 'Drum Crazy' and exhibits the charm, aplomb, fleetfooted steps and stylistic nous that had the makers entice him out of retirement when his colleague, fellow icon and friend, Gene Kelly, was forced to bow out. Nearing 50 at the time, he does not approach his routine with the blink-and-miss rapidfire tapping of his younger days, but all of his hallmarks are present and correct - the warmth mixed with goofy, curious humour, his almost peerless agility and his command of body, audience and stage. Just look at his exit - total and intuitive awareness of his environment in full display, he performs a variety of cane tricks, finishing with his trademark spinning catch and exits with a wave and a smile in bounding, mercurial twirls

   Cheating a child out of an Easter Bunny never looked so admirable

   I also greatly appreciate the ease in which he performs in tailoring. The film is set in 1912 and was made in 1948; educated guesses aside, I have no idea who made Astaire's suit nor whether its Edwardianisms were more appropriate for the earlier or the later date but I'll be damned if the majority of the ensemble doesn't hold up today (I still can't forecast a spats return)

   Nor do I feel uniquely qualified to expound on the peerlessness of his looks - when there are not one but two excellent extollings at Dandyism and an essential tome (and a Sartorialist guest post pitting the dandy dancer against Cary Grant) by G. Bruce Boyer, there's no place for me in the running. But this walking, singing Leyendecker illustration-ensemble is one of the defining images of Astaire in my mind - simple, harmonious colours, the derby/bowler sitting nonchalantly on his head - a continent and ease of use away from the stereotype it became in the City of London - and a precisely tailored two piece that matches his range of movement so well, the notion of a suit as a second skin is wholly fulfilled. Everything that people miss when trying to bring a suit to life is here

   Working primarily with light accents, as dictated by the springtime setting, the hue of the two-piece's grey finds a natural companion in the white waistcoat, which, in turn, is complemented by the spats and even the pearl tie pin. The pink shirt adds a jaunty air; the black necktie works with the shoes and bowler to maintain balance through contrast. The blues that shade the other accessories are perfect. Befitting his successful Broadway star character - hardly a world away from Astaire himself - this is a somewhat patrician, but nevertheless relaxed and creative man, not a businessman. Everything is natural; everything simply works

   'Drum Crazy', the song? It was written by legendary composer Irving Berlin, which alone speaks for itself, but it boasts qualities not mixed together often enough - danceability, hummability, quotability. Oh, and a relentlessly playful sensibility, so refined that it works in all sorts of drum licks and drum kits with the randomness of a jam session yet never shortchanges the other instruments in play. Even the xylophone. And when it almost arbitrarily becomes a marching band stomp, it nevertheless feels right, because if there's anything that should be freewheeling, it's Fred Astaire in full flight

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Prohibition! Or, The Perfect Name For a Club Night in Booze Britain Is...

   I could wax lyrical about the atmosphere, the music, the number of attractive flappers, the teacups, the dancing and the play gambling, but I trust the photos truly speak for themselves. This is Prohibition: