Douglas Holt, explains to Oxford University Press how the process of the rise to popularity truly works. He says, “These individuals and groups became immensely influential by advancing innovative ideology, and thereby developing intensely loyal followers” (Why Does Something Become Popular). He explains how famous icons stand out to people because they make alternative approaches towards things that have once been mastered. Because of Fred Astaire’s effortless work in the ballroom genre of dance, and his innovative approach to filming dance numbers, he helped popularize dance.
Fred Astaire found a love for performing at a very young age, and it started his short, yet successful partnership with his older sister, Adele. Together the brother sister team toured Vaudeville Circuit before making it to Broadway in 1917. Ten years later they starred in the 1927 George and Ira Gershwin musical Funny Face. His sister continued to move on with her life, moving to Britain where she married her husband, while Astaire stayed home facing challenges trying to find jobs on his own.
Once the brother-sister team broke off, Astaire’s parents then sent him to school at Ned Weyburn’s School of Stage Dancing and Alviene School of Dance where he furthered his studies in dance as well as theatre. After the small pause from stardom, Astaire moved to Hollywood where his career in the performance industry took off (Fred Astaire Biography). As a dancer, he became more and more recognized for his effortless talents. He landed a very small role in the 1933 show, Dancing Lady, with Joan Crawford.
Soon after his small debut, he was already signed with the well known RKO Radio Pictures. Through this film production company, he was paired with another phenomenal dancer, Ginger Rogers. They quickly became the most beloved duo to ever be featured on television, and both of their careers took off to measures that had never been reached before. Their unforgettables duo’s included mainly tap as well as ballroom dance. Ginger Rogers helped capture how much of a wonder Astaire really was.
She said that he “was the best partner anyone could ever have” (Fred Astaire Biography). She explained how hardworking he was known to be, and how he continued to strive for his “relentless pursuit of perfection” (Fred Astaire Biography). He wouldn’t think twice about rehearsing a scene for days. Although Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were the leading duo of the time, he was also partnered with other leading ladies such as Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse, Judy Garland, Leslie Caron, and Audrey Hepburn (Fred Astaire Biography).
Not only was Astaire known for his hardworking ethics, he also presented a new and creative way to film dance. Before Fred Astaire introduced his new idea, dance was normally filmed in separate clips, where some body parts were shown and not others. Film productions never captured the dancers full image while dancing, had numerous cuts within the dances, and tended to either speed up the clips or smooth them out. Viewers who did not watch the performance live, did not receive the same experience from only watching it on their television.
However, Astaire made sure that they did not alter his dancing through video and that the audience would be able to view the whole dance, not just some. There would be no editing done to the dance or dancers; he wanted the bond between the two dancers to be enough to showcase how beautiful dance really was (Fred Astaire Changed the American Motion Picture Musical). People recognized his idea for film dances as Merce Cunningham once made a point when he said it did not bother him that he was not able to see Astaire live on stage. I’m not sorry that I saw him only on film,” he said. “Mr. Astaire’s use of the film medium cannot be divorced from the dancing and choreography. He perfected “film dance” as a new art form” (Kisselgoff). Fred Astaire forever changed the experience people received through watching dance even if it was from their homes. Fred Astaire’s ambitious, new, and different way of filming dance has also led to the popularity of so many dance television shows produced today.
So You Think You Can Dance is a hit television show on FOX network, that has traveled around the U. S. in search of young talented dancers to battle it out for the winning title at the finale of the season. They “m hip hop, contemporary, tap, and especially ballroom numbers. The series premiered on July 20, 2005 with over ten million viewers and ended the summer season as the top-rated show on television. They have now continued with their 13th season, and have never failed to not please their audience (So You Think You Can Dance). Another popular dance television show is Dancing With The Stars.
Top dancers from all around the country are paired with famous actors, singers, athletes, or any well known celebrity. The dancers then have weeks of training with their partner, and perform a different dance each week, all styles of ballroom. They perform the cha cha, the mambo, the fox trot; all dances Fred Astaire polished to perfection. This past March, Dancing with Stars received 11. 8 million viewers in one night, and was ranked Monday’s most watched television show for two weeks in a row (“Dancing with the Stars” Stands Monday’s Most Watched Program).
Without Fred Astaire’s innovative idea to film dance in a way that people could enjoy to watch while staying in the comfort of their own home, film dance would not be as popular or considered the great art form that it is today (Kisselgoff). Fred Astaire was most known during the ballroom era, and was the leading figure of it. He showed the dance world that there did not need to be intricate props on stage for ballroom dance to be interesting, just a stage and two dancers that had a love for dance and for each other which is what set him apart from everyone else.
Ballroom still goes side by side with Astaire’s technique that he introduced when he was a star of dance considering “his technique, incorporating tap, ballet and ballroom, was impeccable in terms of the dance image he invented for himself” (Kisselgoff). In today’s world, Fred Astaire is still recognized for the way he changed ballroom into a seamless and elegant, yet detailed genre of dance during his time. There are multiple ballroom studios around the Unites States that recognize themselves under the name of Fred Astaire.
These studios encourage students, that they too can learn the flawless technique of ballroom dance that Fred Astaire has perfected (Fred Astaire Dance Studios). Studio’s use Astaire’s name to be able to entice dancers to go to their studios, since he was such a famous icon during his time and his name continues to help popularize dance. On June 22nd, 1987, the world lost one of it’s most dedicated and beyond talented performers to step on to stage. Fred Astaire died from pneumonia, and was buried in the Memorial Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.
The world responded to Astaire’s death in sorrow. President Reagan said: “Nancy and I are deeply saddened by the loss of a very dear friend. Fred Astaire, an American legend, has died. We join the entire nation in mourning his passing, and our heart-felt sympathies are with his wife, Robyn, and his family” (Shepard). Fred Astaire won over America’s heart and continues to popularize dance through his phenomenal execution of ballroom dancing and his innovative way of filming dance to appeal to bigger audiences. Fred Astaire was able to create a name for himself that no one else could top.