Keep Dancin'


Keep Dancin' - video still

Video loop, 10 mn 52.

Keep Dancin creates a 5 minute video loop out of three shots from the title sequence of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s Singin in the Rain. Cutting out every figure save Gene Kelly and a mannequin in a shop window, the video only preserves a fragment of Kelly’s tap dancing routine.

Similarly to John Travolta in the video Sunday Night, the character’s dance routine can continue on ad infinitum. While it makes use of a circle motif on a different scale, as the shape appears figuratively throughout the sequence, the video’s incessantly repetitive structure alters the perception of the film’s original scene. Given the video’s construction, it is possible to discern a commentary on the phenomenal success of this work co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, which, over time, has come to be considered the summum bonum of the great American musical comedies. In a certain light, Gene Kelly hasn’t stopped dancing in the rain and delighting generations of viewers with his childlike behavior and cheerful expression since the film’s release. Bending one of the most emblematic sequences in cinematic history into a loop, this video, as with other videos belonging to the series, underlines the scene’s mythic character as well as its incredibly strong influence.

But, as with all the videos of the They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? series, whose title is clearly echoed here, Keep Dancin is able to be approached independent of this cinephilic context. With regard to its title, the concerns of the series, and the political background of On the Brink, with which it shares a significant number of correspondences (omnipresent rain, the importance of circles, looping effects, greatly accelerated movements), the piece contains a critical consideration of the contemporary world despite its jolly appearances. The contrast set up between Gene Kelly’s character’s unfailing optimism and the uninterrupted rain that would normally constitute a hostile element acquires something of a suspicious dimension due to the ceaseless continuity created by the video loop. A critique of the cult of youth and the importance given to appearances (with the constant display of a smile), of the rules that work can exert on certain communities in times of crisis (the work’s title appears here as an injunction), or a demonstrative indifference to the dysfunctions of a society that no longer makes room for individualism, the artwork offers several possible interpretive frameworks that complicate first impressions. The disappearance of the authority figure who interrupted the dance routine in the original film participates in the spectrum of interpretations in the same way as does the original narrative context.

That is, unless seized by the character’s good cheer and communicative lightheartedness, the viewer prefers to see the video more simply as a challenge to adversity and an ode to freedom from all forms of conformism.

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Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet