Gotta Dance, Gotta Dance! runs at BFI Southbank throughout July-August 2014.
Featuring dances from 48 different films, this exuberant scene brings together movie history past and present, with dancers from the great musicals stepping out with memorable dancers from non-musical films. It’s the work of Manchester-based illustrator Helen Hancocks, author of two acclaimed children’s picture books: Penguin in Peril (2013) and William and the Missing Masterpiece (2014). Below, she tells us why she was inspired to create this tribute to dancing on screen.
What gave you the idea for this illustration?
I think the idea came to me a few years ago, when trying to think of ideas for a different project. At the time I didn’t know how to compose the drawing, so it stayed in my head for a year or two. But I kept coming back to it, and I now had a long list of films and a few sketches and plans. I am a sucker for films that include dancing (and not just musicals) and I appreciate any excuse to watch more films…
Can you explain your technique?
It was all drafted out in pencil, after planning the layout. Originally, it wasn’t going to have stairs. I was adding new films to the list as I went along (I still feel there’s loads I have missed). It took me a while to start painting (in gouache) as I was nervous about starting and making a mistake. I think it was the scale that daunted me! Halfway through, when I was painting in so many dancers in detail, I questioned why I had decided to make it so big. I printed out references of each film to match colours. It was hard to decide whether to do the black-and-white films in colour or not.
What’s your favourite dance scene in film?
Ahh… a really hard question, how can I pick one?
I really like the big musical films with big choreographed pieces, such as Singin’ in the Rain (1952), but at the same time I like a film that’s not dance-driven but just drops a little dance in somewhere. I love Audrey Hepburn’s jazz café moves in Funny Face (1956) – I feel that’s how I would want to dance. Also, the café scene in Bande à part (1964); at university we had a little Godard phase and learned the dance.