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Dancing, from "Singin' in the Rain," a movie starring Gene Kelley and Debbie Reynolds

Subthemes: Physical and Mental Exertion, Performance, Instruments and Bands

The dance numbers in Singing in the Rain have reached iconic status. Particularly, Don Lockwood’s (Gene Kelly) flamboyant and romantic traipsing through the rain expresses his valentine for Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). Who minds the rain if you’re in love and can dance spectacularly? More themes of Dancing follow from this movie.

Kelley dancing Admire Gene Kelley dancing from Mental Floss.

Physical and Mental Exertion: Especially if you stay on the floor for several hours of an evening with young partners, dancing works every muscle. Legs mostly, but with good posture and frequent turns your heart will thank you and you will become more fit. In fact, the average person burns 300-800 calories for each hour of dancing according to Captain Calculator. The number depends on your weight as well as the intensity and style of dance.

Some dances make no bones about being strenuous, such as tap dancing or modern dance. No one can do the hustle for an hour without heating up. Other dances, such as the waltz, call for balance and vigor over the hours. Skillful dancing also demands mental concentration. The leader must guide the couple on the floor and anticipate the moves to come; the follower needs to adroitly pick up signals and execute smoothly, often doing most of the flashy turns and spins. Teamwork and sensitivity to the other requires concentration and experience from both partners.

Performance: Accomplished dancers and professionals are proud and paid to strut their stuff. They may do so in a ballet such as Swan Lake, a classic for such legends as George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, or in a modern interpretive dance with the likes of Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham They may put on tap-dancing spectacles or a drumming, driving Riverdance. Bollywood films feature dancing, lots of wonderful solo and ensemble pieces, including such stars as Hrithik Roshan and Madhuri Dixit. Shakira, to name one more sensation, can shake a leg (and hips) with gusto. Dance performances take place everywhere around the globe. In the United States, Michael Jackson may be best known for his unique ‘moonwalk’’ (a far cry from clomping in the kitchen) but more broadly he won the admiration of millions with his eye-popping dance moves. John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever” did his flamboyant, dramatic best to win a trophy. Others may shine as break dancers, buskers on a busy city street. Movies, such as La La Land or They Shoot Horses Don’t They; song videos, and TV shows, such as “Dancing with the Stars,” feature graceful, exciting, and perfectly choreographed numbers. It was not only Bo Jangles who could dance for a living.

Instruments and Bands: The tunes in Singin’ in the Rain, particularly the wet Kelley, become ear worms. However, we may not pay attention to the instruments that complement the dancing. For swing bands in that era, dancers hear trumpets, saxophones, keyboards, double basses, and drums. Now, electric guitars, drum machines and pads, samplers, saxophones, and synthesizers are the five most common instruments for today’s social dances, as explained by iedm. Even so, disc jockeys with record collections often replace live bands. For most dancers, the fundamental instruments are drums: They provide the base, the foundation on which the rest of the music and the twinkle toes on the floor thrive.


Unable to suppress his love for Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelley breaks into an endearing cavort down a rainy street. Despite the exertion the moves require, he gracefully, creatively and emotionally dances his heart out. The celluloid performance is immortal.

If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept “Dancing,” consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, “About.”

We invite you to read about other movies discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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