- Ginger Rogers as quoted by Roger Ebert
If anything suffers from the modern practice of editing every action into tiny bite-sized chunks it is the cinematic dance scene. The appeal of dance exists in watching real people moving in real time. You can frame it and light it and do whatever you want on the soundtrack but ultimately it is all about capturing the performance. Fred Astaire, for one, was adamant about having as little cutting in his dance scenes as possible.
All the big dance moments we remember from Singin' in the Rain happened with a minimum of cuts. Donald O'Connor's legendary flips off the wall happen in an unbroken 10 second shot. If there had been a cut there that would have been the death of the scene. Everyone would assume trickery.
Or take what is probably my favorite shot from Singin' in the Rain from the "You Were Meant For Me" number, which begins at the 2:40 mark of this video and lasts a full 30 seconds.
That doesn't seem like very long (I didn't consider it long enough for my recent post about the great under-appreciated long takes in film history) but by modern movie standards it's an eternity. I seriously doubt you could find one unbroken shot of equal length in all of Chicago.
My favorite thing about it is that directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly essentially makes it into several shots by keeping the camera in motion and continually reframing the dancers, moving them in and out of shadow. This keeps it visually arresting while preserving the integrity of the dancers. Look at these stills and try to tell me that they wouldn't all be separate shots if the film was made today: