Singin' in the Rain:
the dance

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The dance proper is able to begin once the sequence cuts to the wide two shot, for it is generally imperative in dance that we see all of the dancer's body. While such a requirement has often been interpreted as a guarantee on behalf of the film of the authenticity of the dancer's performance (they really can dance) within this sequence it is also a reflection of the general movement into the corporeality of expression that is not only embodied (has physicality) but exhibits or expresses a specific seductiveness.

The dance, while a duet, like the choreography of its introductory song sees the characters' movements perform a dialogue that realises the implicit terms of the film as a whole. In other words rather than merely represent within the frame or the narrative the movement towards a joyful corporeality the sequence in its realisation performs this - it becomes what it seeks to describe.

Don immediately leads Kathy into shadow, and then into an area of red. However, Kathy breaks away from Don, dancing away from the red, the shadows, and into the white light. Don follows, once again entering shadows, takes her hands and once again they dance together. Kathy now dances with Don, and he leads her in a series of circular movements, through another area of shadow, eventually separating to dance alongside each other as Don gently directs her back to what might be characterised as his side of the floor, dominated by its red lighting. As in the first movement towards this space, Kathy now dances away from Don, away from this light, and pirouettes toward the camera into white light. This movement, not so much an appeal to the camera as a final invitation for Don to enter her world and lead her into his, reinforces the relation established between Kathy and the camera, and between the camera and us, so just as Don is to lead Kathy his seductive success will be marked by the camera's retreat to an almost polite, and certainly discrete, distance.

This change in camera scale is substantial. Implicitly it is a reply to the wide shot of the couple first entering the soundstage, but it also indicates Kathy's acceptance of Don, or more specifically Don's world. Hence it is the moment in the sequence where the future cinema, the 'singing' cinema, has become normalised - it represents a space that can be traversed and explored, and this is done with a freedom that dance is the best expression of.

Furthermore this change of shot scale represents the acceptance by the camera of this future, and this space (this space as future) retains the ambiguities, the shadows and sensual red of the soundstage, but also allows the camera to now become, in its turn, a partner in the dance. The camera is no longer needing to be seduced, like Kathy, but now becomes an active and independent actor in the sequence, soaring in what is the cinematic equivalent of Don and Kathy's dance.

During this part of the dance Kathy, for the first time, dances away from Don. She willingly returns to him, and in doing so she dances around the ladder, the object that was originally used to separate the couple. This incorporation of the object that originally represented the difference between the would be couple is a clear demonstration, through choreography, of Kathy's acceptance of this new world, and as she returns to Don she now leads him into the red on the right of frame.

It is after Kathy has done this that the camera now returns to ground level allowing a two shot of the couple, dancing in concert, indicating that they are now, in fact, lovers. The couple dance away from the camera (which now appears to recognise this new relationship in its hesitation before following - rather than Kathy coming to the camera, or the camera being behind Kathy as earlier, it now recognises the lovers so becomes more reserved in relation to them), and Don lifts Kathy before gently lowering her providing the most intimate embrace of the film thus far. However, and here the sequence reverses the terms of its opening, Don now takes a step up the ladder while Kathy remains on the stage floor, and Don sings, once again, the coda from the song.

Created in 1998 by Adrian Miles, details, republished 2006.