Flash­dance dou­ble

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QUESTIONIn

the fi­nal dance scene in Flash­dance, is it a man do­ing the danc­ing? THE 1983 film Flash­dance tells the story of Alex Owens (Jen­nifer Beals), who works as a welder by day and an ex­otic dancer at a club in the evenings. She wants to go to a pres­ti­gious dance school in Pitts­burgh and gets her chance in the au­di­tion se­quence at the end of the film. The se­quence is set to the Academy Award-win­ning song Flash­dance... What A Feel­ing per­formed by Irene Cara.

It’s no se­cret that Jen­nifer Beals did al­most none of the danc­ing in the film, though some peo­ple are still sur­prised to learn this.

The main dance dou­ble for 18-year-old Beals was French ac­tress Marine Ja­han. The au­di­tion se­quence fea­tures four peo­ple as Alex, with Beals speak­ing and Ja­han in a black leo­tard do­ing bal­let and disco-danc­ing.

There are brief con­tri­bu­tions by gym­nast Sharon Shapiro, who per­forms a slow­mo­tion leap through the air, and the break­danc­ing shot where Alex spins on the floor was dou­bled by male dancer Crazy Legs (Richard Colón).

Crazy Legs can also be seen ear­lier in the film as the break­dancer whom Alex and her friend Jeanie meet in the street.

The film’s screen­writer Joe Eszter­has claimed that you can see Colón’s mous­tache in the break­danc­ing shot, though a close look at the DVD sug­gests this is un­true.

Most of the dance se­quences use a com­bi­na­tion of dim light­ing and rapid edit­ing to avoid show­ing the dancer’s face. But in a shot dur­ing the au­di­tion where Alex points a fin­ger at each of the judges in turn, we get a glimpse of the dancer’s face and it clearly isn’t Beals.

Ar­guably, the best se­quence in the film is set to the song Ma­niac by Michael Sem­bello. This shows Alex train­ing at home and clev­erly dis­guises the fact that Ja­han rather than Beals is the main per­former.

Ian MacMil­lan, Paign­ton, Devon. QUESTIONOn

a re­cent visit to Prague, I was of­fered a drink they called ‘Green’ and ex­pected it to be ab­sinthe, but it wasn’t. It was, how­ever, equally al­co­holic. What was it? THIS is a vari­a­tion of ab­sinthe, some­times called Bo­hemian-style or Czech-style anise-free ab­sinthe or just ab­sinth (with­out the ‘e’).

Brewed in the Czech Repub­lic, pos­si­bly since the Twen­ties, it con­tains lit­tle to no anise, fen­nel or other herbs found in ab­sinthe. Of­ten the only sim­i­lar­i­ties with its tra­di­tional coun­ter­part is the use of worm­wood and a high al­co­hol con­tent.

As there are few le­gal def­i­ni­tions for ab­sinthe, Czech pro­duc­ers have taken ad­van­tage of its ro­man­tic 19th-cen­tury as­so­ci­a­tions and psy­choac­tive rep­u­ta­tion to mar­ket their prod­ucts un­der a sim­i­lar name, but it could be con­sid­ered a com­pletely dif­fer­ent prod­uct.

John Ed­wards, Steve­nage, Herts. THERE have been many at­tempts to pro­vide a ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tion for the phe­nom­e­non of the bib­li­cal burn­ing bush and to es­tab­lish the iden­tity of a plant species that might burn with­out be­ing de­stroyed

The bushy peren­nial Dic­tam­nus al­bus is con­sid­ered the best can­di­date. It grows about 60cm high and its large, el­e­gant flow­ers, which form a loose pyra­mi­dal spike, vary in colour from pale pur­ple to white; QUESTIONIs

there a plant that bursts into flame spon­ta­neously, ex­plain­ing the burn­ing bush story in the Bi­ble? they can even be striped. It grows in woods in warm places and is a pop­u­lar gar­den plant for its flow­ers and for fra­grance.

Dic­tam­nus al­bus grows abun­dantly in the Black Sea coastal ar­eas of North Cau­ca­sus and the Crimea penin­sula.

It is com­monly called frax­inella, dit­tany and, more per­ti­nently, gas plant or burn­ing bush.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, the plant ex­cretes a pun­gent lemon- smelling oil called dic­tagymnin. This oil breaks down, giv­ing off volatile gases. When a naked flame is held near the flow­ers and seed­pods, the plant is briefly en­veloped by a blue flame.

There have been re­ports of this hap­pen­ing spon­ta­neously in par­tic­u­larly hot weather. The flame, how­ever, burns so quickly that it doesn’t con­sume or even dam­age the plant.

This re­calls Ex­o­dus 3.2: ‘ And the an­gel of the Lord ap­peared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, be­hold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not con­sumed.’ The prob­lem is that the light­ing up of a Dic­tam­nus is not overly im­pres­sive or long lived and would hardly have pro­vided the an­gel time to de­liver his mes­sage to Moses.

Keith Win­ter­ton, Cam­bridge. QUESTIONAt

a low point in his ca­reer in the early Fifties, Frank Si­na­tra made a low-key tour of this coun­try, play­ing at times to half-full houses. In which cities and the­atres did he ap­pear? FUR­THER to ear­lier an­swers, book­ings for Si­na­tra’s dates in the Mid­lands were so dire that the man­age­ment pleaded with me to come down from Birm­ing­ham to in­ter­view him in Coven­try, hop­ing for a plug in the gos­sip col­umn I wrote for the Evening Despatch news­pa­per.

Re­luc­tantly, I agreed to a 15-minute chat in the bar of the Le­ofric Ho­tel.

Si­na­tra told me he had just heard from his Hol­ly­wood agent that he might get his first non-singing role in a movie. The film was From Here To Eter­nity.

I was so unim­pressed by this news that it war­ranted no more than a para­graph in my col­umn.

How­ever, a dozen years later, as a Fleet Street show­biz ed­i­tor, I had to bribe my way into the Abbey Road stu­dios just to catch a glimpse of the star record­ing his Great Songs Of Great Bri­tain album.

Martin Jack­son, Hawkhurst, Kent. IN THE early Fifties, Frank Si­na­tra was one of a num­ber of Amer­i­can stars signed up by Lon­don Pal­la­dium boss Val Par­nell to top the bill Mon­day to Satur­day.

On the Sun­day, usu­ally a day off in the theatre, they did an ex­tra show, of­ten at the Granada cin­ema in Toot­ing, South Lon­don.

I was a cub re­porter on the lo­cal pa­per, the Bal­ham News, and in­ter­viewed Si­na­tra, a dour man who didn’t like the Press, be­fore his sell-out per­for­mance.

I have hap­pier mem­o­ries of oth­ers who per­formed un­der this ar­range­ment: Frankie Laine, John­nie Ray and Guy Mitchell. I in­ter­viewed them all at their Lon­don ho­tel, ei­ther the Savoy or the Dorch­ester.

In those days of ra­tioning, they of­fered me tea and cakes and this hun­gry teenage re­porter was well pleased.

I also in­ter­viewed John Wayne at the Granada and per­suaded him to drive a Young’s brew­ery dray and pair down Toot­ing High Street, crack­ing a whip and hol­ler­ing ‘Ya­hoo!’ to the amaze­ment of pass- ing shop­pers. It made the front page with a big pic­ture and the kindly star sent me a note of thanks.

Bill Gard­ner, Cirences­ter. QUESTIONWe­re

there any re­ported sight­ings of UFOs in Vic­to­rian times? FUR­THER to the ear­lier an­swer, strange hap­pen­ings were re­ported dur­ing the reign of Charles II.

The vicar of Bolton, the Rev. Oliver Hey­wood, wrote in his diary: ‘On Thurs­day night, March 2, 1664, some com­pany came to my house and saw a strange flam­ing north­wards. We all went out to look at it; some­times it was so bright, one could not see clearly on the ground and it shone in at win­dows.’

De­scrib­ing his thoughts on the mat­ter, he said: ‘ My ap­pre­hen­sion was very for­mi­da­ble to be­hold.’

The next en­try is: ‘It was seen again the night af­ter in the west, there is also a strange noise in the air heard in many parts this win­ter, they are called Gabriel Ratch­ets by coun­try peo­ple.

‘There is an­other noise heard in the air, which here they call nightwhist­lers, which make a whizzing, as if a piece of tim­ber that ar­rives with vi­o­lence through the air.’

Owen Tay­lor, Orm­skirk, Lancs.

Just an act: Jen­nifer Beals shared her role in Flash­dance

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