Jacques Austerlitz, the subject of W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, which I am reading now, only discovers his true name when the headmaster of his Welsh boarding school takes him aside and tells him (he had been brought up under a Welsh name). He is mystified and intrigued, and struck by the rarity of his newly discovered surname - one he shares, as he notes, with Fred Astaire, the great dancer, who was born Frederick Austerlitz.
Fred Astaire - especially when dancing with Ginger Rogers - is (and I admit to a sizeable blind spot in the area marked Dance) almost the only dancer I can watch with that rush of aesthetic pleasure, the tingle at the nape of the neck, the amazed gasp that signify the presence of great art. Why him? I think it's the sheer effortless elegance; he is the least muscular of dancers. He doesn't throw himself into a dance - he stroll into it. This, I think, is because he is always dancing - whether he's 'dancing' or just moving around, walking, running, lighting a cigarette, lifting a glass, patting his hair, anything. Every part of his body is engaged in a kind of continual dance - every part except that extraordinary, outsize, lantern-jawed head that hangs above the action, quite detached - embodying (as I see it) the detachment of the true artist, the cool still centre.
Similarly, I think Astaire was a very great singer - not a very good one in a technical sense (he has little 'voice'), but he slips into song as easily and beautifully as he slips into dance. Again his style is entirely unforced and unshowy, he does enough and no more, his phrasing is perfect, and as a result he is devastatingly effective at putting a song across - which is why he was so popular with songwriters. Watch him in action with Ginger Rogers here, and marvel. This sequence never fails to take my breath away - and what an ending! The look on Ginger's face... Something much more than a dance has happened here.