Fred Astaire was known for his graceful, seemingly effortless dancing, to which he said, “My routines may look easy, but they are nothing you throw away while shaving…It’s always murder to get that easy effect”.
He shuts himself in a rehearsal room eight hours a day. A pianist incessantly hammers out the score. To make sure he doesn’t repeat himself he rungs off reels of his dances from previous pictures. He paces on the floor, broods, chews gum, occasionally breaks into a cascade of taps, studying himself in a facade of mirros. - LIFE, August 25th, 1941.
Alan Jay Lerner recalls Astaire’s endless rehearsing and self-criticism an anecdote that appears in Benny Green’s book. All alone, after everyone else had left the MGM sound stage, Fred straggled out to greet a late-working Lerner with the self-doubting question of why anyone could ever consider him a dancer. To Lerner, “t[he] tormented illogic of his question made any answer insipid”.
”[Astaire] had become known as one of the greatest perfectionists in the theatrical field, spending endless but regulated hours on sound stages working tirelessly on the dance tricks and routines that emerged with such seeming ease on the screen” - Howard Thompson
”What always impressed me about Fred was his tremendous desire for perfection. I got a peek at him, rehearsing at MGM, even after he had mastared a movement, and he seemed to me to keep going over and over and over it again—until it became mechanical”. - Bob Fosse
“His perfection is an absurdity; it’s hard to face”. - Mikhail Baryshnikov