For the Love of Dance Movies

In honour of the recent release of Step Up Revolution, the 4th movie in the Step Up franchise, I thought it would be a good idea to shine a light on the dance movie genre. It has always seemed funny to me how whenever there is a new dance movie that gets released, reviews tend to all read the same – “The dancing is great! The acting/storyline is terrible! Predictable!” To which I always say, “It’s a DANCE movie! You watch it for the dancing, not the acting!” I must admit though, I am a sucker for dance movies. [Aside: At the same time, I do see the bias in saying you only watch dance movies for the dancing, when people watch certain action movies simply for the action. But that’s neither here nor there.]

If we are honest about it, dance movies play a particular role in the landscape of films. They set out to entertain above all else and to show dance to the masses. I’m not going to go through the history of dance movies because frankly, I haven’t watched enough of the movies of yesteryear (not even classics/staples of the genre like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Flashdance, Fame – all of which I have on my shelf but haven’t gotten around to watching. Blasphemy, I know.) My knowledge of dance movies is limited to all those movies that came out after 2000, when dance was slowly getting recognition once again, thanks to the onslaught of popstars entering the music scene, which eventually led to dancing being heavily featured on television. Even so, the past decade has given us so many dance movies, and here I offer up 5 of my favourites.

1.) CENTER STAGE

Without a doubt, Center Stage is my favourite of all the dance movies. In a way, it sort of ignited my love for the art of dance. The movie follows a group a young ballet dancers at the American Ballet Company, as they journey through the highs and lows of life associated with the ballet world. Center Stage starred real-life ballet dancers Amanda Schull, Sasha Radetsky, and Ethan Stiefel, as well as Peter Gallagher and the debut of Zoe Saldana.

2.) TAKE THE LEAD

Based loosely on the true story of Pierre Dulaine, a dance teacher who brought ballroom dance into the public school system in New York. The film stars Antonio Banderas as Dulaine and features a great ensemble of young actors including the likes of Jenna Dewan, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Dante Basco, and Jasika Nicole. I’ll always remember watching this movie on the big screen and honest-to-goodness being on the edge of my seat, almost breathless, watching that tango. I LOVE a good tango.

3.) STEP UP

It starts off with a very typical plotline with a guy and a girl from different sides of the track, meeting and connecting through a common interest – in this case, dance. But what really makes the movie is the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they started dating and eventually got married.

4.) SAVE THE LAST DANCE

You can’t really have a dance movie list without including this one, which in a way, re-ignited the genre. Julia Stiles plays Sara, an aspiring ballerina who puts her dreams on hold after her mother dies in a car accident. She meets Sean Patrick Thomas’ Derek, who helps her re-discover her love for dance and some new hip-hop moves along the way to add to her ballet. The movie plays more dramatic than the rest of the genre, but still makes good with its dance scenes.

5.) BLACK SWAN

Definitely more psychological thriller than dance movie, but Black Swan starring Natalie Portman takes you into the somewhat disturbing side of ballet. It may not be like the other movies you would categorize as a dance movie (i.e. more about the dance sequences than plot/acting), but here’s a movie that melds the two worlds of dance and incredibly acted thriller. It’s the exception to the typical dance movie.

Honourable Mentions

  • Dirty Dancing Havana Nights: Honestly, sitting here writing this, I can’t really recall the defining dance scene in this unneccessary sequel. My love for this movie more than likely stems firmly for my love of the fantastic soundtrack above all else.
  • You Got Served: It’s got some great battle sequences and I at least have some great high school dance crew memories associated with routines and music from this movie.
  • Footloose (2011): It’s a dance movie that’s not really a dance movie. The plot does revolve around being given the choice to dance in public, but the actual dancing aspect is not over-the-top. It really drove the drama and the story, to make the point that we are free to dance so why don’t we?

Anybody else a sucker for dance movies like me? Any favourites of the genre? Hit me up in the comments!

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Watching Movies for Entertainment – Isn’t That What It’s All About Anyways?

This comes about almost two weeks after watching This Means War (and also after Entertainment Weekly posted something similar in its PopWatch blog, but I swear I totally meant to blog this anyways!)

This Means War, a romantic-action-comedy starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy, was released on February 17th (with previews on Valentine’s Day). The movie was in development for quite some time, and the earliest I remember hearing about this movie was when Bradley Cooper was attached to it. But apparently it was in development way before that. Now, with Reese Witherspoon going back to doing what she does best, which are romantic comedies, I was already sold. I wanted to watch it as it was, and then they cast Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, which to me became a bonus. Then as the movie got closer to being released and critics started giving us their two cents about it (which was essentially that it wasn’t good), I was still determined to go see it opening weekend. And so it opened in movie theaters everywhere and I went to go see it. 1 hour and 40 minutes later, I walked out of the movie theater saying “I liked it!”

Now despite being quite predictable and filled with a lot of cliches, I found myself thoroughly entertained by This Means War. None of it can be helped. By that I mean, it’s a romantic comedy, it’s hard not to make it predictable and full of cliches. But the cast try their damned hardest to give you something fun to watch despite it all, and doesn’t take itself too seriously that you just can’t help but be entertained by it. I mean you’ve seen other rom-coms where they try and pretend that their movie is so different from anything else in the genre, but really you end up sitting there and saying “No, you just accept the fact that you’re like everybody else. Different set up, same ending.”

What This Means War has going for it is that it’s got an action element to it, which ever so slightly gives it something different than other rom-coms. Not to mention there’s an awesome bromance going on, on top of the romance. It’s like Chuck but without all the nerdy stuff (makes sense seeing as how McG, a producer on Chuck, directed TMW). The movie’s got it flaws certainly, but again, by not taking itself too seriously, it makes for a perfectly enjoyable movie watching experience.

Which brings me to my random thought for the week: at what point did we become SO critical about watching movies? Sure, everybody’s got an opinion about movies they see. Lately however, it seems as though every little thing about a movie is dissected, from the general plot and casting to trailers and promotional pictures. And when certain movies don’t meet the high expectations set by others, they’re considered failures. Not every movie can be Oscar worthy and those movies which are smart and do bring something different to their genre should be applauded. However, what happened to just taking a movie for what it is and enjoy it, allow yourself to be entertained by it?

Prior to seeing Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol over the Christmas holidays, I will admit that I had my reservations about the latest installment of the series. After watching the movie, all I can say is that I was entertained by it. Do I remember much about the plot? Not really. Did I still have a good time watching the movie? Absolutely. The actors looked like they were having fun making the movie, which in turn made me enjoy the movie. It wasn’t like watching Transformers, where everyone took everything a little too seriously, which is incredibly stupid considering the movie is simply a 2-hour excuse to see robots fighting.

Center Stage. Take the Lead. Step Up. Burlesque. The new Footloose. They aren’t great movies, but I love them. Everyone knows that you don’t watch dance movies for the acting, you watch them for the incredible dancing talent on screen. Look at Step Up 4 that’s coming out this summer. I don’t know anything about the storyline (except that it’s set in Miami) and frankly I don’t really care because I know the dancing is going to be awesome. Same thing with Cobu 3D (date TBA). I know the general plot line (a modern day dance version of Romeo & Juliet), Derek Hough is the lead, Tabitha & Napoleon D’Umo choreographed – I’m totally looking forward to it. In the case of Burlesque and most musicals these days, the all-around musical performances are fun to watch.

At the end of the day, not every movie is perfect. The ones that have great everything (acting, writing, directing, music, etc.) are incredible and deserve all the praise that it gets. Movies that are from beginning to end terrible, deserve all the negativity and bad words towards it, because you just wasted 1.5 hours of your life that you’re not getting back and you wonder how that movie even got made in the first place. But if a movie has more than a few redeeming qualities, you can’t call it a bad movie – just not a very good movie. Fact of the matter is, if you leave a movie feeling as though you had a good time watching it and you were entertained by it, that’s all that matters.