Debbie Reynolds died two weeks ago, and I’m still mourning the loss of one of the stars from Singin’ in the Rain, one of my very favorite films. If you’ve ever seen that bastion of movie musicals, you know why it’s my favorite: magical, big-production dance scenes; tap dance-offs between Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor; and Reynolds’ pluck and very art-imitating-life story arc of an ingénue who becomes a star.

By now, you’ve probably read about how Reynolds—still only a teenager—didn’t have any dance experience when she was cast in Singin’ in the Rain. (She’d been a gymnast.) Fred Astaire memorably gave her spirits a boost by giving her the honor of watching him rehearse (and sweat, and curse himself, and fail again and again). But “Good Morning” wasn’t the end of Reynolds’ dance film career. She’d go on to hoof it in several films.

Like The Unsinkable Molly Brown, where she hiked up her skirts and really let her hair down (things kick up at the 4:10 mark):

In The Affairs of Dobie Gillis, she danced alongside a young Bob Fosse and held her own. She comes in to dance at 1:53, but honestly, it’s worth watching the whole video to see Fosse do his thing:

Her sublime perkiness (believe me, if anyone can make perkiness sublime, it’s Reynolds) is on full display in I Love Melvin, another film that paired her with O’Connor:

She even grooved while hypnotized in Divorce American Style—and whipped her hair back and forth long before Willow Smith:

But my favorite dance scene of hers will always be this one from Singin’ in the Rain, where she Charlestons charmingly and winds it all up by throwing a pie in co-star Jean Hagen’s face:

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Last night I officially kicked off my holiday movie viewing, with the 2003 American classic film Elf. (I am a self-proclaimed Christmas NUT.) I’ll watch many more Christmas-themed movies over the next 10 days—Meet Me in St. Louis, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, A Christmas Story, Love Actually, Jingle All the Way, The Shop Around the Corner (and this is just a short list, people)—but I’ll definitely make time for holiday films with pretty memorable dance scenes, like these three:

Sure, White Christmas has some memorable dance production numbers (and “Sisters,” despite its limited actual dance moves, has always been a favorite of my two sisters and me, for obvious reasons), but I think the real gem here is “Choreography.” That’s the number Danny Kaye does with a group of modern dancers who are clearly a stand-in for Martha Graham’s company. Not sure why Kaye wears a beret, but his disdain for the drama of modern dance makes me giggle.

I feel like Martha would be proud:

Then there’s the “Jingle Bell Rock” number from Mean Girls, in all its inappropriate glory. I’m not sure what’s better: That first, unexpected thigh slap, or Amy Poehler doing the routine in the aisle as she attempts to videotape.

But for my money, the real holiday tour-de-force is Fred Astaire’s drunk dance in Holiday Inn. He’s just SO GOOD: His plastered dance moves seem uncannily real, yet he still retains the grace and smoothness we’ve come to associate with his style.

Holiday Inn - Drunk Fred Astaire Film Cip by Flixgr

OK, so what are your holiday favorites? And will you be using any of these numbers above as inspiration for your studio’s holiday performances?

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Fred and Adele Astaire

Here at DT, we love the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards. Established in 1982 in honor of the king of movie musicals Fred Astaire and his equally talented sister Adele, the Astaire Awards are the one awards event each year dedicated solely to the hoofers, bunheads, jazzerinas and choreographic geniuses making waves on Broadway, off Broadway and in film.

The 2016 Astaire Awards, which took place last night at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, were eventful, to say the least. The award for Outstanding Choreographer for a Broadway Show went to, not one, not two, but three remarkable dancemakers: tap sensation Savion Glover for Shuffle Along, or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, Sergio Trujillo for his Latin moves in On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan and Broadway golden boy Andy Blankenbuehler for the record-setting Hamilton.

Shuffle Along dominated the awards with additional wins for Best Male Dancer (Phillip Attmore) and Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show. For Outstanding Choreography in a Feature Film, Dave Scott won for the ballet-meets-hip-hop flick High Strung, starring former Mariinsky ballerina Keenan Kampa and The PULSE wunderkind Ian Eastwood.

Special awards went to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater artistic director emerita Judith Jamison, “So You Think You Can Dance” producer and judge Nigel Lythgoe, Broadway and film tap star Maurice Hines and Dr. Joan Fallon for her work with autism and related disorders.

The 2016 Tony Awards are coming up on Sunday, June 12. If the Astaire Awards are any indicator, it will be a stiff competition. Who do you think will take home the coveted award for Best Choreography?

Shuffle Along took home three Astaire Awards and is nominated for 10 Tony Awards.

Photos (from top): courtesy of @theastaireawards; courtesy of @shufflealongbroadway

Don’t miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

1. Bench Add levels or a little drama, Mia Michaels–style, to a contemporary routine.

2. Cane A signature prop of the great Fred Astaire, canes add variety and class to jazz and tap numbers.

3. Chair Any chair adds another dimension to a dance, but folding chairs are transportable and easy to manipulate.

4. Fan Wave it or snap it open and shut. Channel Don Quixote’s Kitri with this fun and flirtatious prop.

5. Flowers Put them in a basket, create a beautiful bouquet or dance with a single flower.

6. Garland Re-create The Sleeping Beauty’s Garland Waltz with your ballerinas.

7. Hat Bowler, ascot, fedora, Stetson or top—you can’t go wrong with a hat.

8. Scarf Soft, light and airy—this amorphous material will bring out the softer side in your dancers.

9. Tambourine Make some noise! Tambourines are perfect for a tarantella or the Esmeralda variation.

10. Umbrella Whether you’re dancing to “Singin’ in the Rain” or “It’s Raining Men,” an umbrella will help you out.

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.