The 20th Century Fox film version released in 1955 ad key differences than the current Broadway musical. One of the main differences other than a little extra dialogue was the utilization of dance. In the film dance was not used as a primary asset to the production. The impact of dance could be described by comparing the stage performance with the film. There are two main plots running parallel in the show. First there is the developing love affair between Laurel and Curly. From purely the dialogue it is clear that these two characters do like each other but it is left up to dance to bring the subtext of heir unsaid emotions to the surface.
Second is the rivalry between the ranchers and the farmers on how the Oklahoma territory land should be used. The plots are not completely independent of each other. By the end of the show Laurel and Curly falls in love and gets married. This outcome has a secondary purpose. Laurel is a farmer and Curly is a rancher. Bringing them together into the union of marriage would symbolically address the solution to dividing the land. This leaves a happy ending for Laurel and Curler. Also there is a happy ending for the farmers and ranchers. The opening sequence features the Oh what a beautiful morning’ and the Usury with the Fringe on top numbers.
Curly arrives at Aunt Lore’s farm early on a Saturday morning with the intention of inviting Laurel to the box social. He is singing to Aunt Leer but also hoping to capture Laurel’s attention from inside. This is the beginning of the love affair between Laurel and Curly. It is certain that Curly likes Laurel however her feelings towards him are not yet defined. Curly does not formally dance while singing Oh What a Beautiful Morning’. He however does freely move about the stage as he serenades Aunt Leer. Utilizing the song to have the free right to move around the set is important.
It allows Curly to get close enough to the house in order for Laurel to hear his voice. If this scene were simply dialogue, Curly would have to stand in one area. If he moved about while Just talking to Aunt Leer it would seem intrusive or rude. Also, if Curly simply arrived at the farm to talk to Aunt Leer and ask the whereabouts of Laurel the scene would lose aesthetic quality. There is more of a sense of wooing and is more romantic to have Curly singing and frolicking about the farm in search of Laurel. For Curly to put so much effort into his entrance it is certain that he has feelings for Laurel.
Oklahoma Broadway Musical By Charlatanism performance. Much of the Oh What a Beautiful morning’ number was done by Curly riding his horse on his way to Aunt Lore’s farm. However he continues to sing upon his arrival. Thus luring Laurel out of the house. The Usury with the Fringe on Top number functioned identically to Oh What a Beautiful Morning’. By singing about the wonderful ride he has to the box social it peaks the interest of Laurel. Again a sense of wooing and courtship is present as Curly sings and dances around the farm. Laurel and Aunt Leer are then captivated by the thought of such a ride.
They leave their chores to Join Curly in dancing on an old wooden cart. It is still uncertain if Laurel has feelings for Curly but she is seemingly considering going with him to the box social. Thus far Curly introduces himself in a romantic way and manages to charm Laurel and Aunt Leer. This was all done through song and dance. After finding out that Curly did not actually have the carriage that he sang about, Laurel was angry. Laurel decides she doesn’t want to go to ride with Curly. This twist of events sets up doubt that Laurel does not reciprocate the romantic feelings towards Curly.
The Out of my Dreams ballet seemed to be very functional to convey the true feelings of a young girl. The dance itself adds a feminine quality to the character of Laurel. The ensemble features Laurel and her company of girls performing a very feminine and graceful ballet. The dance transforms Laurie from a tomboyish girl to a bride. In doing so the dance also raises to the surface the sub-textual emotions of Laurel. It conveys Laurel’s love for Curly by finally showing her true feelings towards him by antagonizing of being a bride waiting for her love.
Laurel is stricken with fear when Jud turns out to be the groom. It is now very clear that Laurel is truly afraid of Jud and acknowledging in her dream that she may have made a mistake by rejecting Curly. The dance then incorporates a Fosse style of dance in the saloon. Laurel is taken into a place she isn’t familiar with and her fear accelerates because Jud is the one that possesses her. These emotions could have possibly been conveyed through dialogue, however it was more aesthetically pleasing through the utilization of dance.
A facial expression coupled by movements of the body and interactions with the entire set can portray emotion beyond what words can do alone. Ballet has traditionally perceived as being associated with a feminine style of dance. The movements of a ballerina are fluid and extraordinarily graceful. A hopeful ballerina first learns the importance of maintaining an erect posture and gaining flexibility. The concept of the dance is to create the illusion of effortless leaps and turns. Females have predominantly been the ones to seriously peruse the artistry of ballet.
Agnes De Mille utilizes the perception of ballet to draw out the feminine qualities of Laurel. It wouldn’t be realistic to assume that a farm girl in the Wild West would be formally trained in ballet, however the utilization this dance again affirms that it has a purposeful function. Through ballet, Laurel has established herself as a blossoming woman. The very dainty movements of the dance create a sense of vulnerability with a hint of flirtation. By gracefully fluttering around Curly she is and into her wedding dress. The film version again is quite different.
In the dream, the sequence of events is the same from the stage version to the film. The difference lies in the sub textual emotion brought out by the dance. The stage performance portrays a feeling of fear while the film portrays a feeling of regret. There is more of a sense of regret on Laurel’s part for rejecting Curly. I do not feel that the emotion of fear was portrayed in the dance. To compensate there was extra dialogue scenes within the song to vocalizes the fear. Again I feel adding dialogue to compensate for dance expression of emotion removed some entertainment quality.
Will Parker arrives at the train depot with his story set to song about “Kansas City”. The number portrays Will Parker as the main vocalist however does not focus on Will alone. Will does introduce the two-step and ragtime style of dance to the folks at the train station and they are able to mimic the dance. This act implies a sense of togetherness and willingness to collaborate between the ranchers and farmers. The ensemble itself did not feature one person but utilized the entire group as being a functional unit of conveying the message of cohesion.
This particular dance also illustrates the adaptive mindset of the territory people. The people at the train station were easily adaptive to the dances brought by Will. This suggests that the territory people are accepting of integration. In the broader scheme of things the integration is of ranchers and farmers living harmoniously. At this point in the show there isn’t any dialogue among the characters that indicates there is any kind of tension between farmers and ranchers. However, through dance it sets a tone for introducing a new plot. The dancers themselves defined their own space on the stage.
There were not spaces of stillness. There was continuous movement and perfect flow between the dancers. This again adds to the theme of collaboration In the film version the dance sequence was quite different. The first major difference is some dialogue change to express the company’s dislike for the two-step and ragtime dance. The first half of the song the only two dancers was Will Parker and Aunt Leer. The others were mere spectators. It wasn’t until the end of the song where the men came around and decided to give the dance a chance. I felt this version was quite destructive to the production.
By having the men as spectators in the first half of the song it created a lot of neutralized space. By removing the full dance sequence it watered down the richness of the theme of collaboration. The first time that the issue of a conflict between the farmers and ranchers occur is at the beginning of the second act. At the box social the farmers and ranchers get into a brawl. Aunt Leer, who seems to be very well respected by all, quickly stops the fight. She demands that Andrew Cares continue to sing and everyone should continue dancing. Feeling ashamed everyone begins to dance.
The complementary song is The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends. This song provides a plan of the farmer and cowman to share the land and live harmoniously. This is the first time farmers are not better than the ranchers or visa versa an understanding is formed. Both the ranchers and farmers now respect the other’s profession. Finally they realize that they must work together to achieve statehood. At first thought I didn’t feel that the dance ensemble was functional in any way. I felt it was a characteristic dance in the old western style. I then thought of the actual events involved in the dance.
It was in a hoedown style. The characteristics of this dance are reflective of the theme of collaboration. Technically you dance in pairs to the instruction of the song. The song is saying the Farmers and Cowmen should be friends. All the while the dancers are swinging each other around and do-see-do-ins in perfect harmony. The exquisite choreography managed to have many dancers on stage. The harmonize effect of the dance was the maintenance of an even flow of activity throughout the entire stage. The goal is to make a seemingly chaotic dance eave a sense of order.
It seemed every dancer knew their steps and the steps of everyone else. The techniques of the dance demand a high degree planning and coordination to achieve unity. The demands of the dance mirror the theme coordination through planning to share the land to achieve unity of the state. The film used and presented the box social dance sequence in the same way as the stage performance. The aesthetic quality of the hoedown adds an authenticity to the Wild West. It is the kind of dance one would expect when thinking of stereotypical Wild West folk. Dance adds a unique dimension.
It has the ability to bring to the surface underlying feelings and themes as seen in the dream ballet and Kansas City numbers. The actual technique and movements of the dance can create a sense of fluidity and togetherness. This was important to the book plot of Oklahoma. Overall the dances were extraordinarily detailed. Several numbers had many dancers. The choreography achieved good utilization of the stage space. The backup dancers were well defined and not used as space fillers. It seemed everyone had a story to tell. Three cheers Oklahoma!