Taking the Lead – How dance movies depict respect and dedication

Footloose.  Center Stage. Havana Nights.  Step Up.

Movies dedicated to the art, passion and love for the dance; each unique in its own way while providing the audience with heart-pounding thrills that make you want to get up and… well, dance!

Recently I watched one of my favorite of all dance movies that I had not seen in a long time — Take the Lead, starring none other than the savvy Antonio Banderas.

For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, I beg you to rent it, make some popcorn and prepare to be amazed.  I’ll give you a brief synopsis but I would hate to ruin it for you.

Reader’s Digest Version (Torto-style):

Take the Lead is based on the true story of Pierre Dulaine, a ballroom dance instructor in New York City.  After witnessing a vandalism on his way home from a dance competition one night, Dulaine goes to the principal of the local NYC high school hoping to help the “delinquent” kids that attend.  The principal is not open to the idea of teaching her students ballroom (and stressed to Mr. Dulaine that none of them would want to learn the style anyway since they already “know how to dance”.)  Mr. Dulaine, however, insists that she give him a chance and she, reluctantly, agrees, sending him to work with the worst kids in the school – those in detention for the rest of the year.

At first, the students are less-than-willing to learn ballroom; in fact, they flat-out refuse, their street-style dancing being the only thing they know.  However, Mr. Dulaine does not give up.  Soon, his newest (and poorest) students accept the new style, encorporating their unique backgrounds and ultimately, transforming their lives.

Obviously this is a VERY brief summary but the film’s meaning is touching and tear-jerking, as with many great movies.  Nevertheless,  the tension between the two styles – classical ballroom (including the waltz, tango, fox trot, etc.) versus free-style street hip-hop, creates a foundation not only for the difference in dance styles but the difference in living styles as well.  The ballroom dance represents the elite class of NYC while untrained street dancing is the only “art” the inner city students were ever able to take part in due to the fact that they didn’t have to pay for lessons.

One particular scene that stands out in the movie is when Mr. Dulaine is at the peak of his desperation to make the students want to learn ballroom.  He has one of his most talented (and synonymously wealthiest) female students come to detention one afternoon.  She struts in, unannounced, and proceeds to dance a fiery and passionate tango with Mr. Dulaine.  The inner city detentionees are amazed at the how “hott” the tango looks and immediately bombard him with inquiries after about how to dance like that.  It is the turning point in the movie.

However, the tango itself is what makes the scene exciting.  Although I do not have much training in ballroom, the tango is one of the most energetic and (dare I say it…?) sexiest genres of dance; it is not an easy style despite its smooth moves.  While the male partner handles his female partner with intensity and desire, the woman is actually in control and must be willing to submit to her partner’s lead.  It is an example of the bond between men and women and how a relationship must be balanced, yet full of passion, in order to be successful – just like the dance itself.

Overall, Take the Lead, as well as many other movies about dance, depict the performing arts in their greatest light and should be admired for the respect they show the arts.  Personally, I think it is a sad thing that most people do not enjoy or even appreciate the hard work and dedication, not to mention love, that goes into each step, every lesson that is mastered.  Movies like this one allow most publicity to be brought to the subject – I hope to see more like it in the future.

Published in: on March 21, 2010 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  

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