Theatre & Dance ETDs


Carol Bender

Publication Date



Dance in entertainment film media, cinema dance, is a hot topic in the current arts world, originating from dance in Hollywood films. Cinema dance developed from the Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, where the camera became a partner in the dance, rather than a piece of equipment that captured dance. The largest contributor to the development of the camera as a partner in the dance was Busby Berkeley. Utilizing technological advancements in film and the growing popularity of the Hollywood musical during the Great Depression, Busby Berkeley clarified the art of cinema dance through the coordination of dance and camera movement. Connections between camera movement, editing techniques and dance movement are evident when analyzing Hollywood musicals. The progression of technology combined with the creation and use of new social dance styles allowed dance in film to develop within the context of dance history. The story of cinema dance unfolds when looking at the social aspects of the world in which it existed in along with dissecting the films in it resides. The American social world deeply changed during the Great Depression, affecting the world of dance existing in the United States. Film media allowed dance to prosper and live on. Dance was no longer confined to the dynamic of a static theatrical stage and limited audience size. Development of new social and theatrical dance styles transferred to film media through connection. Examining the components inherent in cinema dance clarifies the development of dance in film, keeping the art of cinema dance alive in a technological world. Deep formal analysis of specific musical numbers from critical films in Busby Berkeleys work in Hollywood musicals clarifies the distinct form of cinema dance from other types of dance on film. Analysis of specific films from different stages of Berkeley's career is fundamental in defining the elements that cinema dance is based upon. These films are also vital because they are all from the early 1930's, which is when the base for cinema dance was truly formed.

Degree Name

Theatre & Dance

Level of Degree


Department Name

Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Herrera, Brian

First Committee Member (Chair)

Santos Newhall, Mary Anne

Second Committee Member

Predock-Linnell, Jennifer

Third Committee Member

Jewell, Donna




Berkeley, Busby, 1895-1976--Criticism and interpretation, Dance in motion pictures, television, etc.--United States--History, Cinematography--United States--History, Musical films--United States--History and criticism

Document Type