I wrote an earlier post on dance books you should read. Now that this absolutely wonderful Goodreads review – which totally made my day! – suggested that Fever should be made into a movie (thank you so much, reviewer Lillian – my dream!) and mentioned the film, Save the Last Dance, I felt like I should do a post on dance movies I’ve loved over the years. I have to admit, I haven’t seen Save the Last Dance (though I will), and I’m sure I missed other good ones back when I was studying for the bar exam or something crazy, and therefore living in a hole.
Anyway, here are some of my favorites:
Strictly Ballroom by Baz Lurhmann.
I found this a wickedly funny comedy ridiculing the stringent rules of ballroom dancing and how dancers can be punished by the powers that be at these championships for thinking – or stepping – outside of the box. But it also has some of the best paso doble I’ve ever seen, and a sweet little romance to boot. When I started dancing I went out and rented it. I remember trying to see if I could name all the samba steps they were doing in the opening scene. And I remember being madly in love with the male lead – Paul Mercurio 🙂
I actually saw the first, Japanese version before I ever began dancing and found it so charming and sweet. I thought the storyline actually had more resonance in that version than the American one because of the more ascetic nature of Japanese society – i.e.: it’s a lot more shocking and scandalous for a Japanese business and family man to be discovered taking ballroom dancing lessons at night than it is for an American. But I liked the American version anyway, mainly because of all the actors: Richard Gere, JLo, and Susan Sarandon. And I found it funny when, on re-watching it, I realized the actor who won the Golden Globe for playing that horrid gangster on Boardwalk Empire – Bobby Cannavale – also played the fun gay guy in this movie! And of course it’s fun to see Tony Dovolani of Dancing With the Stars rip Stanley Tucci’s toupee off. Imagine that, Tony Dovolani as the meany 🙂 Even though there are no steamy love scenes in this one, I love how dancing rekindles the main character’s relationship with his wife.
This is another one I rented through Netflix after starting ballroom. Vanessa Williams is a really amazing dancer. I was jealous of her crazy fast cha-chas around that pole in the beginning. And Chayanne’s character was really hot! Also, I have to say, part of why I love this one so is that I recognized so many dancers I’ve seen – and some of whom I now know – in the competition scenes toward the end. Always fun to see people you know in a movie, even if they’re basically extras!
Ditto for this one. Yes, I know it’s not really a dance film per se, but a large part of the denouement takes place at a dance competition. Both of those couples that JLaw and Bradley Cooper competed with in the end are high-ranking competitors in national and international championships. I was so excited to recognize them. The standard ballroom couple – Zhan Paulovich and Svetlana Roosiparg – I once sat next to on the train from Manchester to Blackpool on my first trip to that festival. They’re Russian so I couldn’t understand any of what they said, but I was excited to find them on the dance floor later in the week and discover how magical they were. And the male partner in the Latin couple – Tal Livshitz – used to train with his former partner in my old studio. I always thought he was so driven and very talented. He later changed partners to the one he danced with in the movie – Vlada Semenova- and went on to become amateur champions with her. I was so excited the filmmakers actually gave her a speaking role. So she was more than an extra! I was giddy the whole way home from the theater!
The Step Up films
I’ve only seen a couple of these. I must see all of them, especially the first one with Channing Tatum and his wife, Jenna Dewar. No, I can’t believe I haven’t seen it. Of the ones I have seen, I most like Step Up: Revolution. I watched So You Think You Can Dance the season Kathryn McCormick placed in second and I really loved her. I thought she danced beautifully in the movie and did a pretty good acting job as well. And I always love Peter Gallagher. Both the romance and the overall socio-political aspect of the story I thought were very compelling. FYI: I interviewed tWitch Boss for the Huffington Post about his role in Step Up 3D!
I know, I know, pure unadulterated cheese. But I was a fan of Ethan Stiefel and Sascha Radetsky and Julie Kent when they all were with American Ballet Theater, and I remember loving Ilia Kulik back when he won the Olympics for figure skating, so I couldn’t help but be enamored with it anyway. There isn’t a central romance, but there are lot of relationships going on, so I’m going to say it has romantic elements 🙂
My very favorite. I loved the professional dancers, and all that sultry dancing in the opening scene, the music – every single song, Patrick Swayze – duh! And I loved the scenes of him teaching Jennifer Grey how to mambo, with all that beneath-the-surface smoldering sexiness. Who doesn’t want Patrick Swayze to teach them how to mambo? And that bird lift at the end, when she finally gets to soar, is now iconic, as made clear by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in Crazy Stupid Love 🙂 But mostly I love the larger story elements – finally getting your chance to shine after living in your supposedly prettier, supposedly more accomplished sister’s shadow, falling in love with the person your family deems beneath you and trying endlessly to get them to understand and accept, the assumptions people from one socio-economic group make about those from another, the way dancers are demeaned by the upper-classes – they still often are. And even though it doesn’t end in a happily ever after romance-wise, he gives her what she needs, changes her forever. She knows her worth and has the conviction to stand up for herself now.
That’s all I can think of for now. I have to go watch Save the Last Dance. Did I miss any other great ones?