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A Movie Valentine

I write, I sometimes say, because I can’t dance.

Whatever wonderful bodily in-sync-ness, with the world, with a lover, with oneself that the best dancers have… I most emphatically do not have, except when it comes to words and sounds and sentences.

That’s where I can dance, and (in the mysterious ways of desire) that’s what makes me love what I can’t do even more passionately. Which is what makes me want to share this movie dance valentine with you today.

From the not-very-good 1958 movie version of the great musical Damn Yankees, the witty, sublimely sexy dance duet by Gwen Verdon and her husband and choreographer Bob Fosse — occasioned, with utter narrative clutziness, when some nonentity played by Fosse unaccountably wanders onto the screen to do this “Who’s Got the Pain When They Do the Mambo” routine with the movie’s female lead, Lola, played by Verdon.

Maybe Tab Hunter, the male lead, was originally supposed to be in the routine, but just couldn’t carry it off. Who knows? Fosse’s performance isn’t credited — but though his being there makes no plot sense it makes every kind of erotic sense, this routine being so much sexier and so much more about how beautiful Verdon really was than any of the other more stereotypical postures Lola assumes through the rest of the movie.

They dance so gorgeously, so seamlessly, so knowingly together here that I’m even moved by Fosse’s thin voice and thinning hair (the reason, in case you wondered his choreography does such great things with hats).

But then, at this point in my life I’m especially moved by reminders of the passing of time and the ephemerality of life. Not to speak of the spectacle of longtime spouses showing their mutual appreciation through art and creativity.

And yes, it was Michael who introduced me to this video clip, which you should check out at”

And happy Valentine’s day, to Michael and especially to all those creative spouses out there.

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