Wednesday 23 Jul

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0

Kierston White - Don't Write Love Songs

The Tequila Songbirds have become just as beloved as about any group around these parts. And how could they not?

Featuring a revolving cast of the Sooner State’s most badass female performers, it’s a power hour of some of the best songwriting coming out of central Oklahoma. Sure, they might not technically be family, but they are clearly a band of sisters all the same, bonded by the same brand of whiskey running through their veins.

07/01/2014 | Comments 0

Depth & Current - Dysrhythmia

"Overproduced" is a term thrown around all too indiscreetly nowadays, usually applied when the thing that sticks out about a song or album is how it sounds rather than how it is constructed. Yet some of the most compelling albums ever crafted embodied a certain aesthetic that was just as skillfully and meticulously put together as any Bob Dylan or Miles Davis record — which is to say production is as crucial to our enjoyment of music as much as anything else; it's also the most overlooked.
06/24/2014 | Comments 0

Weak Knees - “IceBevo”

Indie rock has been in a good place as of late. Not caring about being cool is the new cool, and a couple of dudes on guitar, bass and drums can make catchy, earworm songs without being armed to the gills with computer software and vintage synthesizers.
06/17/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Music · Music · Five now-senior chorus girls...

Five now-senior chorus girls revisit past performances

Doug Bentin March 12th, 2009

Been Rich All My Life, a 2005 documentary by director Heather Lyn MacDonald, has five things going for it: The Silver Belles, five chorus girls now in their 80s and 90s who met during the head...

"Been Rich All My Life," a 2005 documentary by director Heather Lyn MacDonald, has five things going for it: The Silver Belles, five chorus girls now in their 80s and 90s who met during the heady days of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s. They came from New York and the Deep South, and despite the film's title, none of them were rich in the disposable-income sense of the word. What they all had was a determination to better themselves and a love of dance. Let me tell you something about professional dancers, and I've worked with a few: They're terrific.

The gals reunited in the mid-1980s and began taking their show on the road. Now, let's be honest: By the time this film was made, they could no longer shake a leg with the best of them. The inspiring part is that they could shake it at all. The wonder is that they still wanted to.

The troupe was comprised of four dancers with one on the sidelines who traveled with them. Bertye Lou Wood was 96, still as sharp and sassy as ever, but unable to keep up with the others: Marion Coles, Elaine Ellis, Fay Ray and Cleo Hayes, who takes a heavy fall down some stairs and has to battle back from immobility.

Don't be misled by the designation "chorus girls." These five dancers may never have been headliners, but they worked with the best, including Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater.

Director MacDonald includes some vintage photos of the gals at work in these legendary venues. I would like to have seen more of the historical material. People with little or no understanding of what those performers and performing spaces meant and still mean to American popular music could use more instruction. Hopefully, this information will be provided through other elements at the Oklahoma Museum of Arts screening 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The five dancers don't spend much time telling audiences about their experiences. With luck, MacDonald has oral histories from them on tape for use by future historians. I suspect that what we are given in this film is but a small part of what these ladies could have contributed to our knowledge of their lives and times.

We find out that at the end of every Silver Belles show, dancers in the audience are invited on to the stage to take part in a "shim sham shimmy," a chorus line of dance that is made up of four simple tap steps. Museum screenings may not include it, but the DVD of the movie contains a bonus shim sham shimmy dance class. How cool is that?

There is something in us that marvels at seniors who refuse to go quietly into that dark night. If there is life after death, when the Silver Belles get to that great dance hall in the sky, Bojangles will greet each of them with, "Welcome. Get your taps on. Rehearsal starts in 10 minutes." "Doug Bentin

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5