Video of Jack Cole Performing "Hindu Swing" in Hollywood Palace (1965)

Saturday, July 4, 2015
In my 2011 post on the "Father of Modern Jazz Dance" Jack Cole, I had included a production still of Cole dancing on the American TV show Hollywood Palace (1965). The image captured an important performance for Cole fans and historians because unlike the tight Bharatanatyam inspirations in Kismet (1955) for which Cole was behind the camera choreographing, the Hollywood Palace image captured a performance featuring Cole himself on screen dancing and, given the choice of costuming, likely featured choreography even closer to the Bharatanatyam source than usual.

I assumed the Hollywood Palace footage was lost or locked away in some LA archive somewhere which would be a shame since the extant visual footage of Cole himself dancing in frame is limited and mostly shows him outfitted in American-style clothing with the exception of a brief and tantalizing clip of him in Indian-inspired dress. But my pessimism was misplaced. Thanks to YouTuber Alfred MrDance, we finally get to see the Hollywood Palace footage! I first discovered the clip in its posting at the "Jack Cole, one of the greatest choreographers and dancers ever" Facebook page with different music overlaid. Inquiring by comment referred me to the original video on YouTube. Here it is in all its rare glory:



What soon becomes apparent is that much of the choreography here is the same as or similar to that seen a decade earlier in "Not Since Nineveh" and "Diwan Dances, Pt 1" from Kismet (1955). The Indian-inspired costuming had raised my hopes for something a bit closer to its Indian roots than Cole's standard "Hindu Swing" style. However, the choreography does offer us a few new and tantalizing segments to see Cole perform most notably in those undulating hips at 2:34!

But overall, what I noticed most in this performance of Cole is his aloofness and fatigue. Writings about Cole are open about his tendency to look at the floor and reflect his intense concentration in his face when he danced, and he had a problem with one eye that crossed towards his nose and seemed to cause him to be self-conscious. Unlike the "cool and detached" feel the floor-gazing aloofness lent some of his earlier dance footage (like this "Sing, Sing, Sing" TV performance where it is ideal), in the Hollywood Palace footage it just looks like he is disinterested and would rather be somewhere else. For someone who choreographed and danced so crisply in available footage from earlier years (and was known for tight precision and isolation in movement), his tired bodily stance and the lack of completion in his movements here is surprising. Maybe it was an off day for him? Granted, he was in his fifties here (and sadly died almost a decade later).

I am always amused by the "east Indian jive ballet" juxtaposition of the 1960s spy film jazz music with the Indian-inspired choreography and costume. And those costumes! The thick Bharatanatyam-style head jewelery that wraps around the crown of the head, the ghungroos tied to the toes anklet-style...evocative of the "ethnic" without being authentic.

I had commented last July on my blog's Facebook page about the increased interest I had noticed in Jack Cole's dance and legacy in the media and in the "Hindu Swing" production of the dancer Namita Kapoor. The Hollywood Palace video is a welcome addition to the collective remembrance of Cole on the interwebs and beyond...

10 comments:

  1. Amazing! Is it me or the two female dancers the same who danced in "Not Since Nineveh"? BTW, can this be a good example of cultural appropriation? :)

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  2. ragothaman - I'm not sure they are the same dancers--their faces look different to me, though it's hard to tell due to the quality of the footage. Jack Cole definitely appropriated Indian culture. But here's how I thought about it in my original post: "So while he certainly appropriated Indian dance forms like Bharatanatyam, it seems less egregious to me than dancers like Ruth St. Denis who never sought out explicit authenticity and whose whole method of production and presentation would invite the audience to read the performances as 100% authentic." The Hollywood Palace dance is more problematic than most of his others because the costuming and setting would likely be interpreted by an audience as "authentic."

    The Gardener - Thank you!

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  3. hi minai

    stumbled upon this on youtube. am sure you'd be interested.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uwdl0HcX2e0

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    Replies
    1. Hi Cram! Rangam is on YouTube!! OMG!! Finally after so long! You know, I had found one single song from the film recently and was going to post about it soon, but this is exponentially better! Expect a post coming soon with thx to you for this great find! Also, I'm happy to see that commenting is working fine with my new blog template. You're my first test. :) Take care!

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  4. I look forward to that post. :) You take care too.

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  5. I had not seen this Hollywood Palace footage. Very exciting because I recognized some steps I had learned a long time ago in Matt Mattox class (At that time I thought it was odd that no one acknowledged that it was lifted from bharatanatyam.)

    And then there is the part at 2.35 the forward moving step is what Alvin Ailey cites in his choreography "Night Creatures" Dance history is such trove of secrets to uncover.

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  6. at 3.25 the forward moving step is one that is cited by Alvin Ailey in his "Night Creatures" at 2.57 on this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSsu-owfz2w

    I have never seen the Hollywood Palace video before! Wow. Another often repeated step is almost straight out of bharatanatyam adavus, that I learned in a Matt Mattox class---- where no one seemed to care where it came from.

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    1. Hello groundedapsara. Looks like you had trouble posting your comment—sorry about that! How interesting that you were learning some of these movements in an old Matt Mattox class and that you knew their origin. Ah, are you referring to the “undulating hips” move as I call it at 2:34? I can definitely see the similarity to the move at 2:57 in the “Night Creatures” video you linked to.

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