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To Hermes Pan, for an Unparalleled Partnership in Choreography

Hermes Pan collaborated with Fred in Fred's first proper movie, Flying Down To Rio, and their partnership and friendship lasted a lifetime from there. They are credited together on 18 of Fred's movies, as well as all of Fred's TV Specials. There is no underestimating the role Pan played in Fred's dancing. Where Fred got stuck, Pan would think of something; the routines Pan invented Fred embellished. A famous story is told of how they once spent fifteen minutes staring at each other till Pan said, "I've got it. If we start out on the left foot it'll solve our problem." Every step was accounted for.

Before every movie they would lock themselves away in a rehearsal studio, usually with Hal Borne, Fred's rehearsal pianist, and just spend six weeks working and rehearsing the dances. They worked hard to produce the simplest of dance moves; yet Pan never sought to claim any of Fred's spotlight for himself. The greatness of the numbers they created was so evident that he didn't need any. 

It is remarkable that they even looked and talked somewhat alike. If you believe in destiny, then it surely dictated that these two men would meet and form the greatest choreographic partnership of Hollywood. Together, they were greater than the sum of their parts- and when you consider their achievements individually, the parts alone added up to quite a lot indeed!

Fred Astaire and Hermes Pan collaborations:

Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance?, A Damsel in Distress, Carefree, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, Second Chorus, Blue Skies, The Barkleys of Broadway, Three Little Words, Let's Dance, Silk Stockings , The Pleasure of His Company, Finian's Rainbow, An Evening With Fred Astaire, Another Evening With Fred Astaire, Astaire Time, The Fred Astaire Show, plus other uncredited collaborations. 

Fred Astaire, Michael Kidd, and Vincente Minnelli, for special accomplishment in a dance number, The Girl Hunt Ballet

A self-contained dance number modelled on a Mickey Spillane novel, The Girl Hunt Ballet is a marvel to behold. Through numerous idioms of dance, colour, sound and even texture, the entire hardboiled detective genre is translated beautifully into a musical number.

Minnelli's incredible artistic vision, is articulated beautifully. Colours flash and blend and dissolve together; textures are translated onscreen as silk and smoke float and hint at the sensuality of the number; and the lonesome, plaintive cry of trumpets and trombones enhance the atmosphere and the send shockwaves of emotion through the viewer. The camera lives and breathes and crackles with energy as it follows Fred around the seedy back alleys in his pursuit of justice.

It is the choreography, though, which stands out. Kidd's uniquely strong, aggressive and masculine style of choreography is combined with Fred's own graceful, versatile, and ethereal sensibility to create precisely the detective genre within the framework of the dance. Hoodlums fight, wrestle, shoot and die agonising deaths in stylised, slow motion ballet; the ingénue is vulnerable, fearful and clings to the hero while hinted at her own hidden agenda; the femme fatale is sensuous and slinky, curving her way around the hero and sliding around him; and the hero himself is a strong bedrock of determination and an unstoppable juggernaught of aggressive but controlled violence, with every movement sharp and strong and powerful.

The Girl Hunt Ballet, more than any 'dream ballet' or Busby Berkley style chorus number, epitomises the creative ability of the dance musical. It breaks down boundaries of genre and crosses lines that no other musical number has ever done.

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Last Updated on Monday, 12 October 2009 10:26