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Dance History Lecture for Frank Sinatra

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Dance History Lecture for Frank Sinatra
Twyla Tharp chose to choreograph dances for Baryshinikov using the music
Sinatra and so we have Baryshnikov dances Sinatra by Twyla Tharp. Tharp is

known for her somewhat unorthodox style of choreography and although she has used many classical scores for her choreography, she has sometimes first used the Beach Boys as her inspiration then switching and adjusting the choreography to fit Hayden. In her choice to use Sinatra for her choreography, we have the influences of two famous performing artists of the twentieth century along with one of the choreographic innovators. The result is an enjoyable performance of the musical interpretation as the inspiration. This collaboration between artists is documented throughout the history of dance with Tchaikovsky composing the musical score for Diageliv’s ballet, The Nutcracker, Nagouchi designing the set for Martha Graham’s dance, or ballet, Night Journey and John Cage and Andy Warhol contributing set and musical accompaniment respectively to Merce Cunningham’s dance, “Rain Forest.”

Frank Sinatra enjoyed his peak years of popularity during World War II and was said to have appealed to the bobby sox crowd. Having evaded military service due to a punctured ear drum Sinatra’s career flourished during this time. He never graduated High School due to truancy and his mother supported him in


style as he was an only child. He performed with Jimmy Dorsey as a singer and breaking his contract with the band cost him a settlement of one third of the proceeds from his earnings for his life as a performer. This put pressure on the performing relationship between them. Breaking the contract actually cost him seventy-five thousand dollars during World War II, but led to rumors that Sinatra was connected to the Italian Mafia in being able to get out of his contract and the rumor was that it was for a thousand dollars. This event was alluded to in the movie, “The Godfather” although the truth of the situation was much different than portrayed.

Frank Sinatra’s first marriage was to Ava Gardener and they were together for two years, separated for four and then divorced. Ava’s career was on the incline while Frank’s popularity had declined during their time together and it is assumed this put pressure on the relationship. He had two other marriages, one to the actress, Mia Farrow. In her biography, upon her separation and divorce from actor and director, Woody Allen, Mia recounts that Frank offered to break his legs for her. Regardless of the critics of Frank Sinatra, he had a long and successful career and his songs have retained popularity.

Twyla Tharp chose his songs to choreograph for Baryshnikov, in the film we are going to see, “Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra.” The creation of choreography for a dancer who has been called one of the greatest ever to a popular, although


not necessarily classic by the strict definition, musical artist is part of Tharps innovative approach to choreography.

In c losing the semester of movies relating to the history of dance, this last movie of “Baryshnikov Dances Sinatra’ the introduction of the movie shows the position of ballet and this defines the medium of Tharp’s basis for her modern choreography. At the inception of modern dance, there was a sharp division between ballet and modern dance and as the line between the two forms blurred, at the end of the twentieth century, we see the benefits of both displayed. In addition to this, the appeal of a musical artist from the 1930's creates accessibility to a larger audience than a strict classic accompaniment. Mark Morris in “Hard Nut” used the classical score for The Nutcracker” but relied on the original story used for “The Nutcracker” while Twyla Tharp used strong ballet technique and more contemporary music. Both maintained the venue of the classical theatrical stage, while Gene Kelly, in “Singin’ in the Rain” used the commercial avenue of movies to bring dance to a commercial audience. In “Singin’ in the Rain” most of the dance sequences are tap, but we have also discussed “American in Paris” in which the movie closes with a thirty minute dance based in ballet.

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