“Omnibus”: Dancing, a Man’s Game on DVD

From “Omnibus”: Season 7, Episode 3

Distributed by Entertainment One; produced by The Archive of American Television; 55 minutes

 

In 1958, Gene Kelly hosted a television special, Dancing, a Man’s Game. Recently issued on DVD for the first time, the show was a pet project for the mid-career Kelly, who conceived, wrote, choreographed and co-directed it. In an attempt to educate audiences on inherent masculine grace found in dance, Kelly assembled some of the biggest athletes of his day and compared their movement to that of a dancer—Mickey Mantle jumping to catch a line drive, Sugar Ray Robinson throwing a punch, Dick Button spinning like a top on an ice rink. Dance movement was ably demonstrated by none other than a young Edward Villella (DT, January 2013) of New York City Ballet.

While the point Kelly makes in the DVD about the similarities between dance and athletics is telling (both are about “rhythm, man, rhythm,” according to Robinson), the real wonder is Kelly himself. Confident and charming before the camera, he offers the audience an abbreviated dance appreciation course, demonstrating the dancing as he talks and sings. Though the film quality is often grainy, and Kelly’s thoughts on the distinct roles of men and women in dance can seem dated today, the show is nothing short of a tour-de-force.

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