Shake it! Bump it! Wiggle that Thing in the privacy of your living room — with Toni Basil

Dance · Film
COVID classes for the non-contagious contingent

The last time we checked out Toni Basil, it was, ahem, a different world. Seated at her dining room table, I interviewed the high-energy, hugely eccentric dancer/choreographer about her amazing contribution to the look, feel, sound and joyful spirit of Quentin Tarantino’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD (2019). My story ran in the New York Times, last August.

Toni, of course, according to Tarantino, is the Goddess of Go Go. She was the go-to girl in the Department of Shaking Your Groove Thing during the mayhem of the ’60s. She famously shook it as the girl in the “Red Dress” sharing the screen with Elvis Presley. Yes, The Lockers. Yes, “Micky.” Her duet with Davey Jones of the Monkees in HEAD (1968) is one of our very favorite “music video” style clips. As David Winters’ assistant choreographer the legendary T.A.M.I. Show a funky white girl got a brush-up with dance greatness — aka James Brown — that forever changed her style. She stood backstage next to Mick Jagger reluctant to follow James on stage. That was a tipping point for Jagger to get his dance groove together.

The clip, despite being so unfortunately out of focus, gives you a taste what this Goddess was good for a short four years ago.

Study go go with a legend!

Toni Basil Go Go Zoom classes | July 5, 12, 19, 26 @ 4 pm PST | $10

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Don’t just sit there … jive with your hands!

Dance · Film · Music
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Ed. note: We’re pleased to feature a fun item contributed by an expert in American popular dance, Julie Malnig. Take it away, Julie!

The Hand Jive was one of the most popular rock and roll group dances of the late 1950s and became a hit on televised teen dance programs of the era such as American Bandstand and The Buddy Deane Show. The accompanying song, “Willie and the Hand Jive,” was composed in 1958 by the brilliant bandleader, singer, musician, and impresario Johnny Otis.

In the first video clip, from Otis’s own television program The Johnny Otis Show, he is at the piano playing and singing his signature number as the vocal trio Marie Adams and the Three Tons of Joy skillfully demonstrate how to perform this percussive hand dance. The routine performed by the musical trio — that involved clapping hands, hitting the thighs, and beating the wrists — is similar to the gestures one would have seen white and black teenagers enacting either on television or in local schools and social clubs of the day.


The second video clip of the 1959 film Juke Box Rhythm, features Otis, again, and a jazzy, highly theatricalized (and somewhat corny) version of the Hand Jive featuring well-known swing dancers of the period Gil and Nikki Brady (he’s wearing the thick-rimmed glasses). The film’s director, the German-born musical prodigy Arthur Dreifuss, began as a Hollywood dance director in the 1930s but ultimately made his reputation as a producer and director of low-budget musicals. The choreographer, Harold Belfers, started out as a tap dancer and then went on to direct, produce, and choreograph over two hundred films and TV variety-show productions. The Hand Jive is probably best remembered from the 1971 Broadway musical Grease and its 1978 film adaptation choreographed by Patricia Birch.

Julie Malnig is a professor of dance studies at New York University. She is completing a book on televised teen dance programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

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Through the eyes of Milton Glaser

Architecture & Design · Visual arts
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If you lived in America in the last half of the 20th Century, you saw the country, in part, through the eyes of illustrator and graphic designer Milton Glaser (1929-2020). So prolific and widespread was his visual sense that, for a while, almost all good design looked like his. He co-founded Push Pin Studios, the ...

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Show some respect! for Martha Graham … and Jack Cole

Dance
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Fashion · Film
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Music
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Dance · Film
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Lost Martha Graham solo finds contemporary context in world premiere @ The Soraya

Dance · Music
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John Garfield, glimpsed twice by his daughter’s oil paints

Film
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In Shanghai, where dancers breathe their own carbon dioxide

Dance
Carbon dioxide is a natural by-product of the body’s respiration process, something we breathe in and out every day. Dancers obviously need more oxygen when their hearts are operating at elevated levels. And yet, here is the Shanghai Ballet taking class in face masks. How good, or harmful, can that be? According to Health, a ...