Set Work: Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)

Set Work: Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)

  • Genre: “Singin’ in the Rain” is a 1952 American musical-romantic comedy film, co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

  • Plot: The film focuses on the transitional period in Hollywood from silent films to ‘talkies’. The main protagonists are movie star Don Lockwood, his friend Cosmo Brown, aspiring actress Kathy Seldon, and Lockwood’s leading lady Lina Lamont.

  • Choreographic Intent: Kelly and Donen aimed to communicate the energy, creativity and optimism of the Hollywood industry during its transition into the sound era while also providing a humorous critique of the period’s movie stars.

  • Stylistic Features: The choreography includes elements of tap, soft-shoe ballet, and uptempo jazz dance, reflecting the various styles prevalent in Hollywood musicals of the early 20th century.

  • Form and Structure: Dynamic group dances contrast with narrative-driving solos and duets. Musical numbers often arise out of the narrative context, mirroring the conventions of stage musicals and supporting the storyline progression.

  • Technique: The technical physicality of Gene Kelly’s dance style is notable - he deftly merges balletic grace with athletic dynamic strength. This combination of skill, physicality and emotive expressiveness is a key feature to study.

  • Costumes and Props: The clothing and props used in ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ are not only reflective of the era but are also used as tools within the choreography (e.g., the famous image of Gene Kelly with an umbrella).

  • Relationships and Emotion: The choreography makes effective use of spatial relationships between characters to mirror their emotional relationships. Watch for how body language, eye contact and interactive choreography are used to express characters’ emotions and relationships.

  • Contrasts: Look for the various contrasts in the film - contrasts between silent film and talkies, between on-screen and off-screen personalities, and between private feelings and public personas.

  • Use of Space: Pay attention to how space is utilised – theatre stages, set spaces, all serve to construct the cinematic world, but also as settings for choreographed numbers.

  • Music: The music, by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, accompanies, underpins, or even drives the dance sequences in the film. Try to understand how different music qualities have influenced the choreography of each dance sequence.

Revise each of these points in relation to the film and the wider context in which it was created. Reflect on the film’s lasting impact and legacy in the world of dance and the art of choreography.