I haven’t done an animation analysis in a little while, but rather than do another one today, I thought I’d look at a piece of dance instead for a change. This is the brilliant thing about animation - so many things feed into it that make it a joy to study. The particular piece I've chosen is Fred Astaire's dance to the song Puttin' On the Ritz. Tap dancing is not normally my cup of tea, but Fred does it here with such elegance that I'm captured by it. I've picked just a short section of the dance to talk about here, but you can find the full scene at the end of the post.
There is one thing that really stands out to me with this dance, and that is texture. By "texture" I mean the variations that avoid monotony in any piece of art. In the case of dance it is variations in timing and movement. Although the dance is obviously to a beat, Fred does everything he can to create this variation, keeping his moves interesting.
.....but then he breaks this pattern with a much quicker flurry of taps. By setting up a pattern he is creating expectation in the audience's minds, and by breaking the pattern he is creating surprise, which by definition is interesting.
I love how in the middle of all his movement, there is a moment where he throws his cane up and it appears motionless for just a moment, becoming the focal point briefly before being spun around. It's like he's saying to us "ok now look at this because I'm going to do something interesting with it".
I like the way that whenever there's some large amount of movement, there's always something that remains stationary, in this case his right foot as he's spinning his cane. I feel like it's an anchor point that somehow makes sense of the movement. A point of reference perhaps.
I love the slowness of his movement as he brings out his cane in preparation for smacking it on the floor. Such a move is not spectacular, it's not difficult for him to do, but in it's restraint it helps out the quicker parts of the dance. It's a bit like how a slow section in a song can give more impact to the exciting chorus.
I absolutely love the spinning section he goes into next, tapping to the beat, but hitting mid-beat with his cane. I see this as being analogous to secondary action in animation - the extra bit of business going on at the same time as the primary action. He gets into a pattern with this again, and he again breaks it on the last spin.
I love the quick tap of the cane he does while in the middle of this move. Again, it's unexpected and interesting as a result.
Here’s the scene in its entirety:
So that's it! A wonderful piece. I hope some of you find my analysis of it useful :)