The Early 20th Century Famous Dancers

There are a number of dancers that have been famous around the world, but they have varied greatly in their personality and their style. They have emerged in different eras and the time where they have sprung to prominence has influenced their different styles.

The world of ballet has produced many performers that have captivated world audiences. Vaslav Nijinsky was popularly regarded as the greatest dancer of the early 20th century. Although Polish, he performed for the Imperial Ballet School and the Russian Ballet where he was renowned for his gravity defying leaps. He eventually became a choreographer, proving to be as successful in this role as when he had danced.

Vaslav Nijinsky set the standard for ballet dancers to follow

Many of the great early dancers were Russian, but Margot Fontaine broke this tradition as she was English, spending her entire career with the Royal Ballet. His dancing was characterized by excellent technique, grace and passion as well as her sensitivity to music.

As Hollywood’s film industry grew in the 1920s and 1930s, many dancers sprung to prominence. Even when sound was not at its highest quality, the sight of great dance routines in action entertained audiences. Many stars who did emerge were trained as dancers and some could dance as well as they acted. Gene Kelly was one such Hollywood actor who could dance and he appeared in many films where he expertly played likeable characters. As well as performing, he also choreographed many of the dances that he performed, and this was certainly the case in the 1952 film “Singing in the Rain”.

Leaping in unison, Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly together

The performer is best remembered for his dance sequence in the song “Ringing in the Rain”, yet the only actor who picked up a Golden Globe Award in that film was fellow dancer Donald O’Connor. As well as dancing alongside Kelly to the song “Moses Supposes”, O’Connor also produced an award-winning performance in dancing to “Make ‘em Laugh”.

The dance routine included running up a wall to perform back flips. Donald O’Connor is not as famous as many dancers in Hollywood, but there were few, if any, who were better dancers than him. In terms of fame there was not a better-known dance partnership than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who performed in 10 musicals together. Fred Astaire performed in 31 films as well as 10 musicals on Broadway and was known for his rhythm and perfectionism and he didn’t start his partnership with Rogers until 1934 when he was already 35 years old.

Ginger Rogers was 12 years younger than Astaire and when they first performed together she was just making her breakthrough as a leading actress. Of the 10 films they made together, six of them proved to be huge successes for the film company RKO. After the partnership ended, Rogers went on to forge a successful solo career.

However, many believe that the leading female solo dancer was Cyd Charisse who co-starred with both Astaire and Kelly in a number of films. Trained at a young age as a ballet dancer, she started appearing in films in the 1940s and the quality of her formal training meant that were no better technical dancers in the film industry. As well as many famous names during this era, the majority of the actors and actresses who appeared in films had been subject to some form of dance training.