This Thanksgiving, I went to the Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights with my husband and parents to see the classic Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie Shall We Dance. As Fred and Ginger began to inevitably fall in love with each other, I sat laughing with the audience around me, eagerly anticipating the next dance number, hoping, and knowing, that no matter what the next song would be, I would find plenty of pleasure and delight as long as Fred or Ginger did their thing.
The plot of this particular movie centers around Petrov, a famous ‘Russian’ ballet dancer with a secret longing to blend tap and ballet (one guess as to who plays this role), who has discovered and instantly fallen in love with a popular tap dancer named Linda Keene. She does not return his attractions, as least for a while (one guess as to who plays this role). The showcase number here is probably “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” in which our two stars dance on roller skates, but although Fred and Ginger have just a few numbers together, every dance feels fully realized and singular in its vision. Sure, Astaire and Rogers was a popular and immediately recognizable brand by this time (this was their seventh movie together), but none of it feels old, every dance scene feels alive and exciting 72 years after its initial release.
So is there anything missing today? Do we take dance too seriously? Where’s the excitement, the pure pleasure, the simple joy of dance like this? Of course it still exists, EEE hasn’t forgotten, of course, but sometime it’s just a bit hard to find it seems. I just want to remind us all of that absolute pleasure dance can give us. Thanksgiving was the perfect day to see a movie like this, to be surrounded by a family that was all there for the same reason: to see Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance on the big screen. There was laughter, there was joy, and we were all most definitely thankful for such a fantastic pair.