Song Lyric Sunday: Shall We Dance?

Image: NSCAD from via

For this Song Lyric Sunday, Helen wants us to share a piece of music that represents a secret guilty pleasure we listen to. I sorta coloured inside the lines, sorta. Please excuse the long intro – longer than the song probably!

The secret out first – and IT WAS NOT A PLEASURE. I WAS GUILTY OF some infraction and forced to attend an Engelbert Humperdinck (singer, not music composed by) concert in the early 1970s with my mother and her friends.

It was wilder than concerts I went to in the same venue. Women were throwing underpants up on stage; screaming at Engelbert to remove his clothing; it was mayhem. “His hardcore female fans called themselves “Humperdinckers“. This may be only the 3rd time I’ve ever mentioned this to anyone, and certainly the first public confession. And, no, I haven’t chosen a Engie (as my mother and friends, whose underpants remained securely in place, called him)

That said, this week’s selection: “Shall We Dance” from The King & I. I have so many clefs, staffs, do ray mes attached to this particular musical. I’ve only seen 2 musicals: Godspell – our high school class went, and The King & I in London, UK in 1980 with Yul Brenner reprising his role. From my balcony seat, it didn’t matter that almost 25 years had passed between the movie (age 36)* and the Yul (age 60) I was watching. And, what I remember most is the “Shall We Dance” scene. I’d have to google to find out who played Anna in the London phase of a Broadway – US tour! That man has my favourite bald head.

But like any thing of a time, the movie is fraught with issues. All film versions of Anna Leonowen’s time as governess to the King of then Siam’s children are banned in Thailand. This includes the most recent, 1999 Anna and the King of Siam with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-fat based on Leonowens’ books. Reasons include the portrayal of King Mongkut, hints of romance, and “its ethno-centric attitude and its barely hidden insult on the whole Siamese nation as childish and inferior to the Westerners.” (Wikipedia: Anna Leonowens). And, it’s true – based on a movie version (an earlier Anna & the King of Siam) which was based upon a fictionalization of Leonowen’s 19th century books (which have hyperbole written in) – it is an Westernized view. Has to be taken within context within context within context.

My other link is Anna herself. For almost 20 years (circa 1878 – 1897), she lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She was a suffragist, co-founder of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design – their gallery is the Anna Leonowens Gallery — while her son-in-law was general manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia in the city. I’ve walked the same streets as Anna, visited her son-in-law’s bank, been to “her” art gallery, and known students and graduates of NSCAD.

And, I am guilty of loving musicals. When I was little, there was no tv – nightly entertainment was listening to the radio or Broadway cast recordings of musicals such as Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, South Pacific. So this is dedicated to M.L. who got the tickets to the London show, and my parents for bringing me up on magic music.

Now, shall we dance?

(Anna sings)
We’ve just been introduced
I do not know you well
But when the music started something drew me to your side
So many men and girls are in each others arms
It made me think we might be similarly occupied
Shall we dance, on a bright cloud of music
Shall we fly
Shall we dance
Shall we then say goodnight and mean goodbye
Or per chance, when the last little star has left the sky
Shall we still be together with our arms about each other
And shall you be my new romance
On the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen
Shall we dance, shall we dance, shall we dance
Shall we dance, on a bright cloud of music
Shall we fly

Shall we dance
Shall we then say goodnight and mean goodbye
(The King Sings)
Or per chance, when the last little star has leave the sky
(Anna Sings)
Shall we still be together with our arms about each other
And shall you be my new…
(Both Sing)
On the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen
Shall we dance, shall we dance, shall we dance

Rodgers and Hammerstein 


* Yul Brenner played the King on Broadway when he was 30/31. He was on tour at age 64/65 when he learned he had lung cancer – just before his 4,000 performance as the King. He died in 1985. For more than 1/2 his life, Yul Brenner, at one point or another, was the King.


© adh [a darkened house] 2016


15 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: Shall We Dance?

  1. This was really entertaining!!! I love musicals as well. My ex used to hate them…being French I thought if they were in French he might enjoy Les Parapuies de Cherbourg but nope, he hated it. I did not know this about Anna and being a suffragettes…we were a few decades behind in that area in Québec but we did finally get the vote too thanks to les suffragettes.

    My mother loved Humperdinck as he was popular when she met my step-dad…I heard about the women behaving like that with Tom Jones as well…glad my mom never went with me )


    • “I’m glad my mother never went to one of my concerts, too,” she replied. “I didn’t realize how active Anna was in women’s issues til I was fact checking tonight. She also helped found Halifax’s Local Council of Women.”
      She added, “Anna moved to Montreal after Halifax, and died there at age 83. She is buried in a Montreal cemetery to give the story a Québec spin.”


            • I think she was around 83. And that’s neat she is in a cemetery near where you work. You might see her spot some time. I live roaming around cemeteries, but not everyone does,” she replied.
              “And, get this, Anna was actually Boris Karloff’s great aunt. But she had cut off all ties with her family, including her sister who married at 15 and was Boris Karloff — forget what his real name was — grandmother. Boris was as English as they come,” she added.


              • She lived a long time for those days. I love cemeteries. Mt pleasant cemetery in Toronto is gorgeous. I discovered it in one of Margaret Atwood’s novels Cat’s Eye


                • “Halifax has two great cemeteries. One downtown — the old burying grounds which is now a provincial if not national historic site (I used to live near by), and another, larger one that everyone cuts through heading towards the downtown and harbour,” she replied. “Which I also lived close by to.” Hummmm.”


the time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things . . .

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