Its week thee of my blog spotlight on my favorite movie dance scenes. Last week I focused on song and dance legend Gene Kelly’s iconic Singin’ in the Rain number. This week I go from one legend to a pair of legends: Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The pair made a total of 10 films together. One of their best was Swing Time (1936). There’s a cornucopia of great dance scenes to pick from in the film. But my favorite is Pick Yourself Up. It’s not only exquisitely choreographed, but it’s a genuinely sweet scene between the iconic dancers.
At the point in the film when the number happens, Astaire and Rogers have just gone through their initial first meeting where they irritate each other (part of the formula of their films). Astaire tracks Rogers down at her dance studio and pretends to need dance lessons. If that doesn’t tell you this film is fiction, I don’t know what will. At first, Astaire feigns being a clumsy dancer. But as Rogers is about to be fired for being an incompetent dance instructor, Astaire implores the dance studio owner to let him show off what Rogers taught him. That sets up the fun number where they dance not just over the dance floor, but waltz over the railing around said dance floor and appear to defy gravity.
There’s much to love about this dance scene. There’s the natural chemistry of Astaire and Rogers. They look like they’re having fun on the dance floor. It’s not that in other scenes/movies they don’t. But here their chemistry just pops off the screen a little bit more for me. I think above all what I love the most though is the simply elegance of the scene. The waltzing and tap dancing is energetic yet graceful. They waltz and tap dance ace if they’re floating on air. My favorite part is at the end when they waltz over the dance floor railing and the dance studio owner looks on in awe.
There are more complicated and legendary numbers in Swing Time. There’s the elaborate tribute to Bill Robinson: Bojangles of Harlem and the legendary Never Gonna Dance (Ginger Rogers performed it so many times that her feet bled!). But I love the simplicity of Pick Yourself Up. The choreography is fun but spontaneous. Credit must go not only to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, two of the most talented people to ever put on dancing shoes. But I must also acknowledge choreographer Hermes Pan. He never ceases to disappoint.
My favorite Astaire and Rogers film is actually Top Hat. But Swing Time gives it a run for its money and grows on me each time. It has the usual Astaire and Rogers formula, but the dancing and acting chemistry of the stars elevates it to fun and artistic heights. You can’t go wrong watching any of the Astaire and Rogers films. But if you need a film that instantly lifts your spirits and makes you want to get up and dance, Swing Time is the one to watch.