I’ve been watching a lot of dancing from early Hollywood cinema lately. That is, from about 1929 until 1940, a time when even American movies were good. (Not that I would want to go back to the Great Depression… Though I think we in the U.S. (and much of the world) almost have over the past few years, only there’s no good dancing to be found in our movies these days.) Anyway, having watched so much Indian dancing from a period immediately following that, I can’t help thinking of some interesting parallels… Such as Eleanor Powell’s famous “native drum/hula [etc.]” dance in the 1939 film Honolulu and Sitara Devi’s “jungle” dance in the 1942 film Roti. I am referring, specifically, to the first part of Eleanor Powell’s dance as compared to the first part of Sitara’s. I think the resemblance amounts to more than, simply, dancers and choreographers from two cultures outside of Hawaii trying to copy parts of the native dance there. (Though in Roti, they don’t even acknowledge that this is what they’re doing… It seems that Sitara and her chorus are supposed to be Adivasis living just across a small desert from Bombay. But the references are pretty obvious.)
Of course, it could be that I am “reading” too much into this. But even if people think that I am wrong and do not have enough justification for making this connection, I am happy to have come up with an excuse for posting these two dances together (though I know I’ve posted Sitara’s dance on this blog at least a couple of times before). I think both these dancers are among the best who ever appeared in the cinema anywhere.