Watching the old movies from the 20s, 30s and 40s Veronika grew fascinated with the mix of diverse dance styles, filming techniques, and stories told by singing and dancing. During that time tap dance was a strong force in virtually every film musical, prominently represented by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Loving to tap dance herself she was stunned but also puzzled seeing that tap dance was used to create amazing spectacles and to tell stories. How did tap dance get into these movies?

In her PhD work at the University of Salzburg, Veronika tries to follow up on this puzzle by looking at what happened before the well-known film musical in the 30s–50s. Right after sound found its way into movies there was an explosion of musical shorts depicting tap dance in large diversity. These shorts are a world of their own, continuing to explore many dance concepts while feature-length musicals drew from ideas developed in musical shorts.

Feature-length film musicals relied on its stars and produced more and more stereotyped dancing and narratives, while musical shorts continued to explore a variety of dance styles. For her studies Veronika analyzes the movement concepts of musical shorts systematically by Movement Inventory, which is a method to explicitly characterize movement processes developed by her mentor Prof. Dr. Jeschke (University of Salzburg). She examines how tap dance movements produce sound and how they create visual and audible spectacle in the production numbers of musical shorts. In some production numbers tap dance is used to tell a story and advance the plot, which impacted tap dance choreographies and caused a specific tap dance style.

For her research Veronika uses published film material from the Warner Brother's Archive Collection. She complements the movement and medial analysis with historic considerations using various sources from the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library and the Marshall Winslow Stearns Collection at the Institute of Jazz at the Rutgers University (New Jersey). Fortunately many clips are also available online. For a revealing example of the tap dance styles in musical shorts have a look here!

Talks

Contribution of Tap Dance to Judy Garland’s Stardom 

Song, Stage, and Screen X: The Star System in Musical Theatre and Film, Regent’s University London (RUL), June 24-26, 2015.

Tap Dance on screen: from stylistic variability to cinematic uniformity 

Music and the Moving Image XI, NYU Steinhardt, May 27-29, 2016

Presenting the Theatrical Past. Interplays of Artefacts, Discourses and Practices, International Federation of Theatre Research (IFTR), University of Stockholm, June 13-17, 2016

Song, Stage and Screen XI Music in Gotham, CUNY, June 27-30, 2016.

 

Publications 

Bochynek, Veronika: Steptanz im Hollywood-Filmmusical. Teil 1 – Das frühe Hollywood-Filmmusical bis 1930. German Tap Magazin. 1/2015.

Bochynek, Veronika: Steptanz im Hollywood-Filmmusical. Teil 2 – Busby Berkeley: das Revival des Filmmusicals. German Tap Magazin. 2/2015.

Bochynek, Veronika: Steptanz im Hollywood-Filmmusical. Teil 3 – Fred Astaire: Handlungsförderung im Tanz. German Tap Magazin. 3/2015

Bochynek, Veronika: Steptanz im Hollywood-Filmmusical. Teil 4 – Das Filmmusical „Colleen“: eine Hybridform der 30er Jahre. German Tap Magazin. 4/2015

Bochynek, Veronika: Steptanz im Hollywood-Filmmusical. Teil 5 – Gene Kelly und das „integrated musical“. German Tap Magazin. 1/2016.