The Supremes’ most famous move, from “Stop! In the Name of Love”—the singers stand stiffly, with right arms stretched straight forward and hands turned up arrestingly—became an almost iconic representation of the girl group genre, but it was not typical of the gestures created for them by [Cholly] Atkins. The dramatic thrust of the arm was contrary to the small, controlled gestures he favored for girls, and it was not, in fact, of his design. The Supremes, Berry Gordy, and the Temptations were preparing for a British television appearance on Ready Steady Go! hosted by Dusty Springfield when they realized the Supremes had no stage routine for their new single. All quickly collaborated to devise choreography, and they based what was to become the trio’s hallmark pose on the sign language of traffic police.
Atkins would certainly not have given them such an unladylike gesture so crudely representative of the song’s lyrics. In his autobiography, he reflects on his aspirations for female vocal groups and the different strategies he employed in working with them:
My work was cut out for me because some of [the girl groups] had been learning from the male groups and those cats didn’t know diddly-squat about teaching females. They probably thought their approach was fine for everybody…but I worked it out, softened them up; the Chantels, the Crystals, the Shirelles—any group I had a chance to work with. See, the girl groups had to be more concerned with what I call physical drama. Instead of trying to move like the guys, I wanted them to use the kind of body language that was associated with women—using your eyes, hands on the hips, and so forth, but not in a macho way. They had to really think about this approach and keep that uppermost in their minds. And naturally, they were doing a lot of love tunes. If I demonstrated a feminine move that they thought was basically an affectation, they called it camping, which was the street term used at the time. When I was growing up, my mother and aunts used to call it putting on airs or being proper.
I find these remarks revealing about the function of movement in performing gender identity and also about the processes of learning that are an inevitable part of being a girl. As I showed in the previous chapter, early girl groups drew on the vocables and musical vocabulary of doo wop (among other musical styles) in creating their own specifically girl-oriented dialect. In much the same way, singers in girl groups prepared for stage performances by basing their acts on the choreography of male groups, until they were taken in hand and trained in “appropriate” movements.
Atkins had very specific notions about what constituted correct body language for girls, and he did not base his ideas on observation of their natural gestures. Rather, he recognized that proper feminine comportment was something that girls had to work hard at and, in his words, keep uppermost in their minds at all times. In the famous BBC television series and subsequent book Ways of Seeing, John Berger observed that:
A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself….From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman.
The constant self-monitoring and obligation to work at being properly feminine described here are exaggerated in the vocal choreography of Atkins’ groups, but the regimen he imposed was not wholly alien to a conventional experience of femininity. Nor is this experience specific to females of any single racial or class group: Susan Bordo observes that “the discipline and normalization of the female body [is] perhaps the only gender oppression that exercises itself, although to different degrees and in different forms, across age, race, class, and sexual orientation.
It is clear, to be sure, that many of the girl singers who worked with Atkins resisted his strict regulation of their bodies. Some singers found his ideas about gesture foreign and artificial, possibly even ridiculous (I will return to the idea of “camping” in girl culture in Chapter 5). Nevertheless, his code of body language connected to broader social notions of how girls ought to move, and his choreography helped to solidify a particular kind of embodiment that continues to feel “right” for girls and women forty years later.
Jacqueline Warwick, Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s
All this fuss over fusions had me thinking about my SamSteve Crystal Gemvenger AU. Sam’s Almandine and Steve’s Moonstone combine to form Milky Quartz. I was going for something majestic with an angelic fury feel, and I think I nailed it~
I decided to start with my two favorites, Sam and Steve.
For Steve’s gem, I went with moonstone, right there on his forehead. The gem meaning has a lot to do with personal journeys, which I think really suits Steve. His secondary powers include shield bubbles and being able to fight without his booty shorts riding up.
For Sam, I picked almandite (or almandine garnet) in a diamond shape on his back, just like where Lapis Lazuli’s wings came from. And just like Lapis Lazuli, his top is backless. Gotta show off those strong back and shoulder muscles, after all. He may or may not also have healing kisses and a red falcon familiar.
Keep an eye out for the rest of these, coming soon hopefully~