How to tap dance like gene kelly

Gene Kelly – Tap Dance UK

By tapdanceukTap Dance Masters


Born Eugene Curran Kelly in Pittsburgh, 1912, Kelly is known today as a legend of the Hollywood “Golden Era”.  A talented dancer, actor, singer, director, producer, and choreographer, he is famous for his graceful dance style, charming personality and good looks.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Gene watched a performance by the man he considered “the epitome and the quintessence of tap dancing perfection” – Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – at a local theatre and was mesmerised: “Robinson was a great star,” recalled Gene, “Nobody could get the ease and the grace and the sound that Bill Robinson got. I’ve never heard it quite that clean and clear again…I was very fortunate to be a young man coming along learning dancing when he was around.”

Kelly opted to study journalism at Pennsylvania State College, but the 1929 Wall Street crash forced him to work to help his family. He created dance routines with his younger brother, Fred, to earn money in local talent contests and nightclubs.

In 1931 Kelly enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to study economics, while his family opened a dance studio in Pittsburgh where he taught in his spare time, as well as being involved with a theatre group at the University. In 1932 his family renamed their studio The Gene Kelly Studio of Dance and opened a second location in  Pennsylvania in 1933 – the same year Kelly graduated. He was accepted into University of Pittsburgh Law School, but quit to pursue a career as a dance teacher and full-time entertainer after two months. In 1937 he moved to New York in search of work as a choreographer, but after little success returned to Pittsburgh choreograph the musical revue Hold Your Hats in April, 1938. Robert Alton was staging this performance, and invited Kelly to return to New York in November 1938, was as a dancer in Cole Porter‘s Leave It to Me! In 1940 he got the lead role in Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, again choreographed by Robert Alton, which was a huge success, and the catalyst for his Hollywood career.

After Kelly’s contract in Pal Joey ended in October 1941, he headed to Hollywood for his first MGM motion picture: For Me and My Gal. In the 1944 movie Cover Girl , in which he starred opposite Rita Hayworth. Columbia gave Kelly almost complete control over the making of this film, and many of his ideas contributed to its lasting success. He removed several of the soundstage walls so that they could dance along an entire street in one take, used superimposition so that he could dance with his own reflection in the sequence “Alter-Ego Dance”, giving his “double” a ghost-like quality. Kelly, along with Stanley Donen, devised his own choreography – something which MGM hadn’t allowed him to do. Film historians consider Cover Girl the point where Kelly hit his stride in a musical role that foreshadowed the best of his future work.

On the back of this success, in Kelly’s next film, Anchors Aweigh (1945), MGM gave him free reign to devise a range of dance routines, including his duets with co-star Frank Sinatra and the famous animated dance with Jerry Mouse.  Anchors Aweigh became one of the most successful films of 1945, and it garnered Kelly his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) Kelly collaborated with one of his greatest peers Fred Astaire in  “The Babbitt and the Bromide“.

In 1948 Kelly worked with Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli on The Pirate, with songs by Cole Porter. It is also notable for Kelly’s work with The Nicholas Brothers – the leading black dancers of their day – in a virtuoso dance routine “Be A Clown”. To have Gene dancing with two black men was seen as a huge risk by the studio executives, as racial segregation was still practised widely in America at this time; but Gene insisted that it be included and the scene is now recognised as historically significant.

An American In Paris was released in 1951 and won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The dream ballet sequence lasted an unprecedented seventeen minutes and was the most expensive production number ever filmed at that time.  In recognition of his contribution to the arts, the Academy also presented Kelly with an honorary Academy Award “in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer; and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film” the same year.

Riding high on this success, Singin’ in the Rain was released shortly after in 1952. As co-director, choreographer, and leading man, Kelly was the central driving force behind what has arguably become one of the most widely recognised, imitated and revered movie musicals of all time. Singin’ in the Rain was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry, and featured several notable dances including  Kelly’s celebrated solo routine to the title song; the “Broadway Melody” finale with Cyd Charisse; and the “Moses Supposes” routine with Donald O’Connor. Harking back to his earliest inspiration, Kelly once noted that “there are variations of Bill Robinson in the dance I do with Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain—’Moses Supposes. ’ Variations of it, but, basically, some of those steps are from Bill Robinson.”

Kelly had the opportunity to work with  Cyd Charisse again shortly after, on Brigadoon (1954). Subsequently, his relationship with MGM was strained by their refusal to lend him out for Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey, and so he negotiated an exit to his contract, although had to remain for three further movies. It’s Always Fair Weather (1956) includes his famous roller skate dance routine to “I Like Myself”, and is the first example of Kelly’s experimentation with Cinemascope, one of his many innovations which contributed to the transformation of Hollywood Motion Pictures in this era.

Following his creation of the ballet Pas de Dieux for the Paris Opera in 1960, Kelly was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and later received lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors (1982), and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute. In 1995, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. In 1999 the American Film Institute also numbered him 15th in their Greatest Male Stars of Classic Hollywood cinema list.

In 2015 Kelly was inducted into the tap dancers hall of fame, alongside some of his great inspirations, friends and peers: Bill Robinson, the Nicholas Brothers, Fred Astaire and Gregory Hines among others. According to Kelly’s wife and biographer, Patricia Ward Kelly, “Gene loved Gregory and spoke with warmth about him as a dancer and human being, and about the ‘terrific clarity and terrific precision’ of his steps. The feeling was clearly mutual as evidenced in the tribute to Gene at the 1982 Kennedy Center Honors when Hines performed ‘I Got Rhythm’ and ‘Fascinatin’ Rhythm’ in an homage to his friend and mentor.”

Kelly passed away in 1996 after a decline following a stroke.

American Tap Dance FoundationDancefilm musicalsGene KellyGolden EraHollywoodHollywood Golden EraIconIdolLegacyLegendMasterMGMMovie Musicalmovie musicalsMusicalsSingin' in the RainTapTap DanceTap Dance Hall of FameTap Dance Mastertap dancertap dancing

5 Unforgettable Gene Kelly Dance Numbers

Suffering from the rainy day blues? We’ve got you covered!

As told by Cynthia and Sara Brideson in the new biography, He’s Got Rhythm, Gene Kelly was one of the brightest stars in the world of Hollywood dance musicals. From tap dancing on roller-skates, to creating rhythms with a squeaky floorboard, to collaborating with dance legend Fred Astaire, Gene was a creative genius and a master of his craft.

These iconic song and dance numbers are guaranteed to put a “smile on your face” and have you “laughing at the clouds”:

1. “I Like Myself” from 

It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

In this unforgettable number, Gene provides one of his most energetic and entertaining performances, and proves that he can hoof it even when wearing roller-skates!

2. “The Babbitt And The Bromide” from 

Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

Two legends of American dance go head-to-head in this Gershwin brothers number from Ziegfeld Follies. In a classic sketch of friendly one-upmanship, the technical perfection of Fred Astaire meets the easy grace of Gene Kelly. This was the only time Astaire and Kelly appeared together on film in the prime of their careers.

3. “I Got Rhythm” from 

An American in Paris (1951)

Gene oozes charm in this clip from the Academy Award winning An American in Paris, as he taps and sings a classic jazz tune while teaching French children a few words of English.

4. “Squeaky Floor Routine” from 

Summer Stock (1950)

In what Kelly himself would later call his favorite solo routine, he creates a dance inspired by the environment in which it takes place. Employing a squeaky floorboard and an old newspaper as the basis for his rhythm, Gene displays his remarkable ability to explore a space through dance.

5. “Singin’ In The Rain” from 

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“From where I stand the sun is shining all over the place.”

In perhaps the most iconic number in any Hollywood musical, Gene taps and splashes his way through a California downpour and right into film history.

To read the stories behind these and many other iconic Gene Kelly films, check out the newly released He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly. In the first comprehensive biography written since the legendary star’s death, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities—including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. Drawing on previously untapped articles and interviews with Kelly’s wives, friends, and colleagues, Brideson and Brideson illuminate new and unexpected aspects of the actor’s life and work. He’s Got Rhythm is a balanced and compelling view of one of the screen’s enduring legends.

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Great dancers: Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly - great dancer and cinematographic genius (eng. Gene Kelly, Eugene Curran Kelly; August 23, 1912 - February 2, 1996) - American actor, choreographer, director, singer and producer. He is best known for his role in the famous musical Singing in the Rain, although he was a Hollywood star in the 1940s and 1950s, during which time he created dozens of wonderful films that were included in the golden fund of world cinema.

Kelly revolutionized the film musical! No one before him could so vividly convey in the dance the character of the hero, his mood, his feelings. Gene didn't have a strong singing voice, but his soft, warm tenor and wonderful artistry made every song he sang a real masterpiece. Kelly was an athlete, trained in classical ballet, which set him apart from other film dancers - and gave him an edge - even over the great Fred Astaire.

Gene Kelly was born August 23, 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Jean's mother, wanting to instill in her children a love of art, sent her two sons to a dance school. However, the dancing boys were not attracted. Gene preferred sports - hockey, swimming, football and baseball, dreamed of a career as a hockey player or baseball player.

He had one feature that had been instilled since childhood - the absence of any pathos, not a shadow of snobbery and a hint of star disease. “All the films that I saw were about very wealthy people. I grew up during the Depression and hated the rich,” his own words.
None of the children were quiet, but Jin was the most restless, active and unlucky in terms of incidents in the family.

He himself appreciated roles in musicals more: “It is much easier to cry and moan than to smile and say – good day!”
He got a crescent-shaped scar after falling from a bicycle, he almost got hit by a truck and became so seriously ill during a flu epidemic that his family could only pray and hope for a miracle….

At first, Jin didn't like dancing, but in high school at the age of 15 he changed his mind and later explained it like this: "I started dancing because I knew it was the only way to meet girls."

He decided to leave for New York, as this huge city attracted him with almost unlimited opportunities and prospects, there were much more ways to achieve success than in his native places. While choreographing the musical Diamond Horseshoe, Gene met 16-year-old Betsy Blair, where she owned one of the roles. After a while they started dating.

No matter how good the result was when creating films with the participation of movie stars, the joint work fettered Gene, because no matter how hard all the actors involved in the scene tried, he was incomparably more effective, more incendiary, more attractive and more technical. It was these qualities and features of the dance manner that his biographers, critics and fans later noted. Flying High magazine compared the passion and sensuality of Jin's dancing to "an example of Errol Flynn-esque sexuality."

It was a great idea to have Gene Kelly dance with Jerry the mouse in The Worry Song; By the way, initially the filmmakers were going to "teach dance" Mickey Mouse, but Walt Disney did not agree to the participation of the most popular character of his studio in the film.

An almost fateful meeting between Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra took place on the set of Raise Anchors. Together they will play in two more films - "Take me out to the ball game" (Take me out to the ball game) and "Firing to the city" (On the town), and will also maintain excellent friendships that began on the set for the rest of life. They managed to create such wonderful images of the sea wolf, the favorite of women Joe and the shy, romantic Clarence, that later they were transferred to other films with the participation of Gene and Frank, only adjusting the details according to the scripts. It is noteworthy that Sinatra did not dance before filming the film "Raise the Anchors", but there was someone to learn from! Under the strict guidance of Gene, Frank Sinatra practiced dance numbers and, as we can now see, he did very well.
This was one of two films where Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire danced together (the other being That's Entertainment, Part II (1976)). Why so few? Because both are great masters of their craft, and even the extravaganza that they created together could not smooth out the spirit of competition and rivalry. Fred Astaire got a big role in The Ziegfeld Follies - he was given three numbers, while Gene Kelly participated in only one, but, with all due respect, this did not give Astaire an advantage at all, and in a joint performance in technology they looked like worthy rivals .
Director V. Minelli also noted this: “He (Kelly) combined modern rhythmic dance, tap, with the movements of classical ballet in athletic forms. Fred Astaire, on the other hand, seemed as light as air itself. He has his own, completely individual style, and no other dancer can adopt it.

A very important point in characterizing Jin's personality is that he was free from all sorts of prejudices. Whether it was racial or political issues, he never blindly adopted other people's ideas, having his own opinion, often at odds with the public.
Film Singin' in the Rain. Filming lasted sometimes for 19 hours a day. Debbie Reynolds had to get up at four in the morning to be on the set on time, and she even got it while working on dance numbers, Mr. Kelly had a low opinion of her abilities and somehow bluntly stated that she could not dance (subsequently he was surprised that Debbie was talking to him at all). Crying Debbie was comforted by Fred Astaire and, moreover, helped to work out and learn the dances. All this did not stop Debbie Reynolds from later remarking: “Gene Kelly was a great dancer and cinematographic genius. In Singing in the Rain, he made me a star. He taught me to dance and work hard, to be loyal and loving – just like he is to his family and friends.”

Gene Kelly's unsurpassed dance in the rain deserves special words. Jumping through puddles, joy and lightness, the desire to live, happiness and warmth that are transmitted to the viewer, were created by Kelly with a 39-degree temperature.
Another bright dance of Gene Kelly - on roller skates. He tap-dances, roller-skates, sings a song full of optimism… all at the same time! Here both technique and the highest skill were manifested, and another inalienable feature - the warmth and sincerity that Jin could create with his mere presence, as if extending a helping hand, giving confidence in success and that life is beautiful.
The coming of 1957 became very difficult for Jin. Filming continued and he was in the most demand, his life's work required time and effort, and he did not know how to work half-heartedly and, as always, gave all the best on the set. Problems arose in another area and the denouement came precisely in the 57th - a sixteen-year marriage with Betsy Blair broke up at the initiative of his wife due to insurmountable differences, although Gene did everything to save the family. Later, she remembered only good things: ... "Gene could cook, he could iron shirts, Jean could sew on buttons, and if necessary, fix the plumbing" ..., "He was full of energy, pleasant, funny, gentle and loving, a real teacher. He loved life... and he loved his job." At 19In 1960, Jean remarried, his chosen one was the actress and dancer Ginny Coyne. She was Jin's assistant for a long time and appeared in some films with him. Jeannie died of blood cancer in 1973.

Gene married for the third time in 1990 to Patricia Ward. It is bitter to note, but the time spent with Patricia has become another period of severe trials for Gene. At first it was a struggle with loneliness, in which a new spouse could help him, and inhuman fatigue, which was felt in his words: “Just one more round date,” uttered at 1992, on the day of the 80th anniversary. And then the fight against the disease, which for the last seven months has chained one of the most active and active people in love with life to bed.

Gene Kelly passed away on February 2, 1996. There are few, if any, people who are as brilliant, full of energy, exceptional cordiality, who developed their own impeccable style, sincere and open, who felt so subtly, knew how to live, and with all these qualities won the hearts of millions.

Tap dance - the dance that conquered America

Tap dance - the dance that conquered America

"Music of the feet" - this is literally how tap dance can be described. For this dance, it is not necessary to use musical accompaniment - the rhythm is beaten off by special shoes with metal plates on the sole. This is the main advantage of the genre: a unique dance pattern is available even for blind people. Because they hear him. Who first began to tap dance, we propose to find out from our article. 9History of tap dancing This direction became the main highlight of Broadway, and then Hollywood. The frequent and rhythmic tapping of shoes with metal heels captured the minds of Americans, despite the Great Depression that swept the country in the late 20s and early 30s of the 20th century. People enjoyed going to musical performances to admire the performance of their favorite dancers. Who was "to blame" for such a stir?

The origins of the tap dance can be traced in the ritual dances of the indigenous population of America - the Indians. Their movements during the ceremonies are indeed somewhat reminiscent of the tap dance rhythm. But the true "parents" of the direction are still the cultural traditions of the Negroes and the Irish, who settled the lands of the New World back in the 18th century. The Negroes brought African rhythms to America, and the Irish brought the jig. During the impromptu matches hosted by the immigrants, racial and other stereotypes were dissolved in the struggle for the best wooden sole dance performance. Peculiar competitions remained in the shadow of the general public until 1830, which is considered the year of the birth of tap dance.

In 1830, a famous Irish dancer, who performed under the pseudonym Papa Rice, demonstrated a new dance to the public. He combined the jig with some elements of African rhythms, in particular, he borrowed certain movements of the legs, shoulders and arms. Papa Rice was greeted with a standing ovation - this is how the tap dance appeared, which excited America.

Until the 20s of the last century, the step was inextricably linked with Broadway and the artists who masterfully performed this dance. One of the main tap dancers who shone on the stage was the African American Bill Robinson. The dancer managed to achieve something incredible at that time - to win over the white audience. After all, according to the rules of racial segregation of those times, blacks had to dance only for blacks, and whites for whites. Robinson changed these traditions. But not only this is remarkable for his figure in the development of tap dance. A kick with a toe, a glancing kick, a dance on the stairs - all this is his "hands" work, for which modern tap dance fans thank him.

With the development of the film industry, step dance acquires a different status. Now style is becoming the main focus of musical comedy directors. New tap dance idols appear. Frederick Austerlitz or Fred Astaire became the main star of Hollywood musicals, although initially they were skeptical about his candidacy: the balding actor does not really know how to play, except for dancing a little. But the young man was able to charm film producer David Selznick and show his talent to the whole world. Aster's merit lies in the fact that he did not just perform the step. He masterfully combined it with the choreography of classical dance, creating a special aesthetic of the style.

Who holds the palm among black tap dancers in Hollywood? It was Sammy Davis Junior who started his career at the age of 3. The talented African American won the love of the public and captivated her with his incredibly masterful movements.

The post-war period is considered golden in the development of tap dance. The war is over - you can relax and enjoy the game of musical actors performing tap. The names of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Jinder Rogers do not leave the posters, and the great tap dancers do not stop beating a clear rhythm, turning dance into art.

In the early 1950s, the genre experienced a period of stagnation. The big bands, whose music accompanied most tap dances, were taxed by the government. Musicals cease to generate income - producers are looking for new ideas for scripts. Thus, the tap dance remains on the sidelines of the film industry, to which it owes its development, giving way to ballet scenes.

At the end of the 60s, Broadway was dominated by big dance events: directors began to revive old musicals, including those with tap-dance numbers. At the same time, several programs about the step are launched on television. All this leads to a revival of the style, a new wave of its popularity. At the same time, step is no longer perceived simply as entertainment. Masterly tapping with shoes has become a subject of art - fans of the genre began to open schools for teaching step dance, festivals and competitions between tap dancers are organized across the country.

At present, interest in style has not faded. Yes, tap is gone from the big screens. Where did he "settle"? In small chamber venues, where modern dancers continue to beat out a clear rhythm in an attempt to win the status of the most talented tap dancer.

Interesting Facts

  • Shoes with metal heels only appeared in the jazz era. Initially, the step was danced in clogs and shoes with wooden soles.
  • Since 1989, every May 25, all dancers celebrate Tap Day. The date was not chosen by chance. On this day, step dance master Bill Robinson was born. In the US, the holiday has become an official status.
  • In the 1935 film The Little Colonel, Bill Robinson performs his famous "step step" with movie star Shirley Temple, the youngest Oscar winner. It was the first film in which representatives of the black and white races danced hand in hand. For this reason, the film was banned from showing in the southern states.
  • During World War II, Fred Astaire inspired American soldiers with impromptu tap dancing. He specially flew to London to raise the morale of his compatriots before landing in Normandy.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century, step was considered a dance of the black population of the United States, since it was closely associated with the development of jazz. Jazz melodies seem to have been created for tap dancing, so the dance was called “jazz” in the 1920s and nothing else.
  • In the 1920s, tap dance became a pastime for former hard drinkers. Prohibition, adopted in the United States that year, completely banned the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. In order to somehow entertain the audience, the owners of drinking establishments invited black tap dancers.
  • In 2000, the Guinness Book of Records has an entry about tap dancer Jerry Adams. This dancer covered the distance from Washington to New York in 6 hours. What is remarkable here? What he did was tap dancing. By the way, the distance between the end points was 328 km.
  • There is another entry in the Book of Records, dedicated this time to the fastest tap dancer. 28 beats per minute - this is the result of Michael Ryan Flatley, an Irish-born choreographer. The record was set in 1989. Exactly 9 years later, the dancer broke his own record, setting a new bar of 35 beats. But not only Michael Flatley is famous for this. His large-scale dance shows, such as "Lord of the dance" and "Feet of Flames", won the love of tap fans around the world.

  • The best and fastest tap dancer in the world according to experts is a woman. This title was awarded to Elinor Powell, whose career fell on the 30s and 40s.
  • Irish step impresses with its vigor and rhythm. This is a rather difficult style to perform, since the number of kicks with one foot varies from 4 to 6. At the same time, the body remains motionless, only the legs are involved in the dance. They perform it to folklore, Celtic music.
  • Russia has not bypassed tap dancing. Our version of the dance is called drobushki. Unlike foreign dancers, Russians have abandoned shoes with metal plates. Instead, double-soled shoes were used.
  • The government of the Soviet Union in the post-war years was negatively disposed towards the tap dance - the development of the genre was hindered by the "Iron Curtain". Despite this, the traditions of the American tap dance were actively developed by the Gusakov brothers.
  • Tap-dancing scenes can be admired not only in old American musicals. They are also present in Soviet films. So, Lyubov Orlova demonstrated her talent in tap dance in the film "Circus".
  • There is a legend that Steppe was born on a ship carrying migrants from Europe. During the journey to distant shores, representatives of various countries came out on deck and beat a clear rhythm on the wooden floorboards. Sailors were not inferior to European dancers, who, for a better sound, came up with the idea of ​​\u200b\u200bnailing small English coins to the soles - pennies.

The best melodies in tap rhythms

As we said earlier, the history of tap dance is inextricably linked with the development of jazz music. It was used in musicals. Therefore, the best melodies are presented in old Hollywood musical comedies.

" Chattanooga Choo-Chu " was used in the movie Sun Valley Serenade. In 1941, the record with this composition became the leader of the American hit parade. And the story of the song began on a train that raced along the Southern Railroad through the town of Chattanooga. Lyrics by Mark Gordon, music by Harry Warren. In the musical, the song is performed by the Glenn Miller Jazz Band.

Chattanooga Choo Choo (listen)

" Singin' in the Rain ". The composition itself was released in 1929, and gained fame in 1952 after the release of the film comedy Singing in the Rain on television. Her popularity is directly related to Gene Kelly, who performed the tap under a simple melody. At the same time, the choreography was choreographed by the actor himself. In the early 2000s, the song took 3rd place in the list of the most popular compositions according to American film critics.

"Singin' in the Rain" (listen)

" The Continental " is the theme song of the 1934 film The Merry Divorce. The famous duet of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dances to it in the musical. Literally a year later, the composition won an Oscar in the Best Song nomination and became the first song to win in this category. Just before 1935, this nomination did not exist.

"The Continental" (listen)

Professional tap dancers note that there are no restrictions on musical accompaniment for step dance.

Learn more