February 24th is National Dance Day! Whether you’ve got two left feet or you’re the twinkle toes of your squad, you can celebrate with these great dance flicks this weekend:
THE RED SHOES
Directed by by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
THE RED SHOES is the Mother of All Dance Films. Gorgeously filmed, this movie tells the tale of a talented ballerina torn between her love of ballet and love for a gifted composer, as her unyielding mentor will not allow her both. Nominated for five Oscars, winning the award for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction, this film broke ground in film editing and cinematography. This wasn’t the first film to feature dancing, musical films having hit the scene decades before, but it was the first to of what today we call a dance film. While it only had a limited release in the United States, its success is linked to movie studios’ revamping the then-stale musical film genre, which had exploded in the 1920s and with the exception of some major hits (thanks Ginger and Fred), had exhausted audience interest with formulaic, unoriginal productions. Think of some classic musical films right now. Chances are, most of the ones springing to mind feature fabulous dancing and were made post-THE RED SHOES.
Directed by Anne Fletcher
After a dry spell in the 90s, dance movies made their way back to the box office with offerings like CENTER STAGE, SAVE THE LAST DANCE, SHALL WE DANCE (see Honorable Mentions below). But 2006, ah, that was the year that heralded the dance movie renaissance – and the arrival of Channing Tatum. Tatum and his wife Jenna met starring in this story of a street-smart boy and a high-achieving girl brought together by chance when her dance partner gets injured, and how dance brings them together. STEP UP combines classic dance/musical film elements with timeless coming-of-age themes creating a movie that’s entertaining and has got some meat. Sure, it’s still another teen movie that spawned a multitude of sequels, each more corny and ill-conceived than the last (plot wise only, the dancing is still TOP NOTCH), but STEP UP will make your heart dance – and the rest of you, too.
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
The first of Baz Luhrmann’s “red curtain trilogy,” STRICTLY BALLROOM is strictly delightful. Watch Scott, a champion ballroom dancer, defy convention and take the Australian Pan Pacific Championship by storm with the help of a new, less experienced partner. Although a lighter, more heartwarming offering than his later films ROMEO + JULIET and MOULIN ROUGE, this film has all the trademarks of Luhrmann’s signature style. With fantastic acting, vibrant colors, stunning editing, and incredible music, STRICTLY BALLROOM is a veritable feast of entertainment.
Directed by Herbert Ross
Don’t worry, I could never forget this masterpiece. I mean, you gotta cut loose. The one and only Kevin Bacon stars in this dance/musical flick as a city-boy suddenly stuck in a small town where dancing has been – gasp – banned! It’s the age-old struggle of young versus old, and extreme protective measures actually encouraging the very behavior they meant to avoid. You might notice some familiar sights while you watch, since FOOTLOOSE was filmed right here in Utah County! After watching, take a pilgrimage and visit all the sites. Locations include the Lehi Roller Mills, Springville and Payson’s high schools, and most memorably, Geneva Steel as the stage for the best anger-dance montage in movie history. And if you’re so inclined, do a double feature and compare the original to the 2011 remake.
TAKE THE LEAD
Directed by Liz Friedlander
Antonio Banderas teaching teens to do ballroom? Yes please! Better yet, TAKE THE LEAD is based on the true story of dance teacher Pierre Dulaine, who saw an opportunity to help at-risk teens learn trust, confidence, and teamwork using ballroom dance. While it plays out like many classroom parables, I love that this film stresses that trusting and respectful relationships contribute to fulfillment and success. You’ll love the characters, the dancing (Jenna Dewan Tatum wowing us again), the warm fuzzy-feels – everything. Like I said earlier, 2006 was the great year of dance movies, so don’t miss this. And if you find yourself needing more, check out the documentary MAD HOT BALLROOM, about participants in Pierre Dulaine’s dance program for fifth graders in New York City.
Available at Orem Public Library: