Title Card: This film is dedicated to all the dancers... especially those who devoted their lives to the development of their art long before there was a motion picture camera.
Gene Kelly: [First lines] Long before the dawn of history, long before he could sing or even speak, man danced. Moving to his own internal rhythms, the pounding in his heart, the beating of his pulse, primitive man discovered dance. It is within us. Always.
Gene Kelly: On a cold, winters day in New York City, these youngsters know how to keep warm. This is the newest craze. It's called break dancing! It was born about 10 years ago, here in the streets and the playgrounds of the South Bronx.
Gene Kelly: They say dancing is as old as love. Stepping. Swaying. Turning. Bodies moving in rhythm. Alone, with others. That's dancing!
Gene Kelly: It's the primal art. The most physical. The most personal of them all. Instead of using our hands to daub paint on a canvas or to chisel a shape from a block of stone, dancing requires the use of the entire body - moving through the space around us.
Gene Kelly: In the late 1800s, a new fangled contraption, a novelty designed to amuse the public, gave movement, gave life, to the allusive art of dancing: the motion picture camera.
Gene Kelly: The first dancers to appear on film where attractive young ladies who, generally, demonstrate more energy than training. But, a glimpse of a shapely leg seemed to more than make up for the lack of polished choreography. The amateurs soon gave way to the professionals who came from vaudeville, burlesque and staged musicals.
Gene Kelly: Among film historians, the early sound musicals are known affectionately as - the stone age of movie dancing. The chorus girls seemed to have spent more time at the dinner table than in a rehearsal hall. And the choreography was usually second rate.
Gene Kelly: To save the movie musical, something drastic, something daring had to be done. One man seemed to have all the answers. He was a successful Broadway dance director who came to Hollywood and immediately laid down his own rules. "My girls must be beautiful and shapely," he insisted. "And I want close-ups. Lots of close-ups of those lovely faces." His name was Busby Berkeley and his arrival meant the movie musical would never look the same again.
Gene Kelly: Berkeley began to take the camera places it had never been. To see through it's lens, wonders only he could conceive. His overhead shots became his trademark. Rather than choreograph his dancers, Berkeley maneuvered them, placing them in geometric patterns that unfolded as if seen through the whirl of the largest kaleidoscope.
Gene Kelly: There seemed to be no bottom to Busby Berkeley's bag of tricks.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: I learned to tap dance by standing in the wings and watching other acts. And, of course, I learned from my Dad and my Uncle Will and they learned from other dancers. You see, dancing is a sort of a hand-me-downed art form. You learn it from someone else.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Style. Elegance. Charm. And class, personified. Yes! That's Fred Astaire!
Sammy Davis, Jr.: You know, Busby Berkeley may have freed the camera to roam among his girls, but, it was Fred Astaire who taught it how to best capture dance on film. He insisted that his routines be photographed with as little editing or changes in camera angles as possible and that the dancer be shown always in full figure, from head-to-toe. In doing so, Fred almost single handedly revamped and restyled the movie musical.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: When RKO Studio teamed Broadway star Fred Astaire with an up and coming young screen actress named Ginger Rogers, motion picture history was made. There would be no onscreen smooching for Astaire and Rogers. In their films, like "The Gay Divorcee", Ginger would resist Fred until the moment he holds her in his arms and dances with her and, then, well, audiences of the day were captivated by this new and graceful expression of - romantic love.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Among the great stylist of the 30s, Astaire and Rogers contributed more dancing of unsurpassed originality and execution than any other artists. Fred Astaire. Ginger Rogers. Nobody does it better.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Bill Bojangles Robinson. An idol, an inspiration of several generations of dancers. His control and balance were legendary. Each tap, clear and clean. His lightness and grace brought an end to the era of flat footed hoofing.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Among all the dancing ladies of the 1930s, Eleanor Powell was, to put it bluntly, the very best.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: Eleanor Powell was a strong and powerful dancer; but, she always retained her femininity.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: The Nicholas Brothers. During the 30s and the 40s, they became the most successful speciality team in movie history. Fayard and Harold Nicholas raised the flash act to new heights of elegance.
Sammy Davis, Jr.: If you ever thought of trying to compare Ray Bolger's style to any other dancers, forget it! He was in a class by himself. A Broadway superstar. Actor. Singer. Dancer. And superb comedian. Ray Bolger could do it all!
Sammy Davis, Jr.: In the world of dance when a performer appears alone, he must dominate the stage and he must do it completely - with technique, personality and panache - like Baryshnikov.
Mikhail Baryshnikov: More than any other of the greatest artists of the Impressionist era, Degas was fascinated by the powerful and exciting world of ballet. The flowing movements of ballerinas on stage. The candid poses of young dancers waiting in the wings, in the rehearsal halls and in dance classes. All this, Degas captured on canvas after canvas. Degas was enchanted by what he called the ethereal like illusion of the ballet and, he wrote, "the hard work behind it, which the public doesn't suspect." Today, a century later, the public is much more aware of the discipline that classical dancing requires. Mainly because they see so much of it in films and on television.
Mikhail Baryshnikov: "The Red Shoes" - the most popular ballet film ever made. It starred the luminous Moira Shearer, with Robert Helpmann and, as the sinister shoemaker, Léonide Massine. Based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, it is the story of the ballerina who once she puts on the magical red shoes, is doomed to dance forever. Filmed in 1948, "The Red Shoes" has become a cult classic, inspiring countless young girls to attend ballet class in the hopes they too would master the artistry of dance, so beautifully depicted by Moira Shearer.
Mikhail Baryshnikov: Classical ballet, modern dance, theatrical dancing. Today, we see these styles dance overlapping, borrowing steps and movements from each other. This, I believe, is wonderful. We all to learn from each other, bringing more joy and satisfaction to the audience. And, what an audience it is. The largest the world has ever known. They say we are entering in a new age in the history of dance. But, then, that is what makes dancing so exciting. It is constantly changing.
Ray Bolger: MGM had assembled more creative musical artists at this studio than anywhere else at any other time. The top musical directors, producers, writers, composers, choreographers, conductors, arrangers, designers, the list was endless. You could dive into that pool of talent and never hit bottom. Which is probably why most film historians refer to the 40s and 50s at MGM as the golden years of the movie musical. When it came to dancing, the studio seemed to have the market cornered.
Ray Bolger: During the 40s and 50s, I think MGM was determined to make their competitors insanely jealous. The studio had the number one dancer and - the number one dancer. Two gentlemen whose styles were considerably different; but, whose contributions to the screen have never been surpassed. When Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly sat in this theater and watched there efforts up there on that screen, I don't think they ever were entirely pleased. Perfectionist seldom are. Kelly and Astaire were and are a tough act to follow. But, when they're up there on that big screen, they're a great act to watch.
Liza Minnelli: Broadway. Well, as the song says, if you can make there, you can make it anywhere. You know something, when I was a kid, my greatest dream was to be in a Broadway show. Acting. No. Singing. No. I just wanted to be a professional dancer. A gypsy - in the chorus of a Broadway musical. Right here in New York. And by the time I was 17, miraculously my dream had come true. I was on Broadway.
Liza Minnelli: Now, for most dancers, this is the ideal place to be in your career. For over 100 years, every conceivable kind of dancer stepped into the spotlight along the Great White Way. So, it's no wonder the Broadway musical has been such an important source for the Hollywood musical. The successful, show-stopping dance routines that originated here, were eventually expanded, reshaped and transposed to the big screen to dazzle and delight millions of moviegoers around the world.
Gene Kelly: Dancing on film is nearing its 100th anniversary - and the innovations through the years have been remarkable. Now, its no secret, dance follows music - and, as music changes, dance changes with it. The music of the 80s has had a profound influence on movie dancing - and the changes we've seen continue to hold an exciting promise for the future.
Gene Kelly: In 1983, film dancing entered a new era. Music videos began to play on television and in motion picture theaters, offering audiences a stylized and exhilarating form of dancing on the screen. The most innovative and certainly the most successful exponent of this new medium is a young and gifted composer, singer, dancer and choreographer, who obviously will be leading the way for some time to come: Michael Jackson.
Gene Kelly: [Final line] And that's dancing!