donate
   

We are seeing more & more dance scenes in the movies. This page contains my personal review of these dance scenes. My opinion is based on *real world choreography, technique and the overall representation of dance.

The Wedding Planner: Tango and Fox Trot - Photo from "The Wedding Planner"

Fox Trot - Danced in the park, Very real world, only a few "clutch&sway" type moves with excellent frame..very much what two people who've just met, but both have had lessons, would dance.

Tango - Danced in the dance studio during a lesson. This scene was well planned, placing it in a dance studio leaves room for a bit more theatrical choreography. It is clear that both Matthew and Jennifer have danced in the past. Both frames were very strong and when performing the Cambio(man lunges back and sits on bent left leg as woman lunges into him, hips forward), Matthew's upper torso,frame and stance was straight and strong. Jennifer's poise was great through out the dance. The only step executed that made me cringe was a grapevine step where both travel to the mans left while crossing the feet forward and back. A common lead mistake was made which is leading the woman with the arms and hips instead of with the body. In all smooth dances, the grapevine pattern should be lead with the full body, if the man executes his steps properly and holds his frame, the woman's lead will be clear and she will have no question regarding follow. Let me clarify that this step can appear very easy, but when done properly is really quite advanced.

Over all - While I was completely put off by the stereotypical FLAMBOYANT dance instructor, and the Tango was for the most part theatrical, I felt Matthew and Jennifer represented dance very well, perhaps the best I've seen in quite a while. I'm sure they sparked quite an interest in the Tango.

 

True Lies: Tango times 2 -Arnold & Tia

Tango with Tia Carrere - I wanted to applaud when I saw Arnold get on the dance floor. While Tia is rumored to frequent the Tango Bars in L.A., You would not imagine Arnold to be much of a dancer. The steps were for the most part theatrical but kept fairly simple. To the untrained eye I think Arnold probably did a Great job. To myself he seemed a bit stiff and as though he did not feel comfortable in his Tux. I would have had taken him outside, smoked a fat cigar, taken a belt of tequila and told him to "relax his toes while going through the steps"..to this I imagine he might reply "Screw You!"...and I'm cool with that.
 
I
t Sounds funny but relaxing your toes is an amazing technique which helps to relax your whole body when feeling tense or learning new steps on the dance floor. This man has my utmost respect..a self made, highly successful business man and actor, I would have liked to help him reflect the true renaissance man that I'm sure he is.

Arnold & Jamie

Tango with Jamie Lee Curtis - First and foremost, Dug him in the white dinner jacket! Due to the highly established characters, I found this scene very funny. Jamie Lee Curtis created a hilarious role spanning from the nervous house wife having a pseudo affair to Dorris (counter part to Borris). The dancing in this scene was a bit less polished than the previous dance scene. Both looked a bit stiff and I very much got the feeling they where both walking through the steps and if anyone was leading it looked to be Jamie. As the credits start to role you see Jamie throw herself down on the ground as Arnold pulls her across the floor..this is where I decided they were hamming it up on purpose, I watched it until it faded and loved every second.

Over all - I don't believe these scenes were meant to "Dazzle" anyone, they were most likely put in for some entertaining depth. Who wouldn't be surprised to see Arnold Schwarzenegger dance a Tango. I do feel, however, that in the light of promoting men to dance, I would have liked to work with Arnold a little bit just to take the edge off.

Strictly Ballroom: Samba, Paso Doble, Viennese Waltz
Scott & FranA note - I am not going to discuss every dance, that would take forever. I will simply be giving my overall thoughts below.

First and foremost, this movie is Australian and actually about ballroom dancing. One might think it to be a blown-out of proportion comedy about dancing. The fact is that it is not far from the truth. While the camera angles and strong characters make is seem almost cartoon-like at times, the portion referring to the competitive circuit is pretty close to home ( I am not referring to the scandal, but instead the outfits, ego's and drama). Don't get me wrong, I love this movie and have it in my video collection, in a lot of ways Strictly Ballroom shows us that other countries take competitive ballroom dancing very seriously.

Over all - Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice are the two main characters. I found Paul to be very light on his feet throughout the movie, almost Jazzy and in the Latin dances you really need to be more "Heavy" and "Grounded". His character calls for this so it is not an attack on Paul's personal dance habits, just an observation on the characters dancing. I was very impressed by the gentleman who plays Tara's father. He was very well grounded and solid through out his upper body, great Latin poise. The best dance in the movie is the final Paso Doble, the costumes where incredible. The Paso Doble is a dance which represents a bull fight. The man is the Matador, the woman, the bull. I would have liked to see Paul and Tara fall into each other (metaphorically speaking) a little more...dance as one instead of two. Finally, a note on choreography, the dance finale has Paul sliding on his knees, around and in front of Tara...great move..however, Paul then just stands up............!! I wanted to see him pull up with a victorious STOMP as his arms are thrown over his head..showing his dominance in this challenge.


 

 

Tango: Argentine Tango


This is a foreign film with English subtitles. The story line is fairly slow and the filming style is what I would categorize as 'artsy', but the dancing is pretty fantastic.The Argentine Tango is very different from the International style normally seen in American movies and on the televised competitions. It's a very passionate dance and those who follow it are passionate about dancing it. I had to force myself to sit through the slow sections of the movie but the payoff is worth while if you appreciate this dance as much as I do.

Over all - The dancing was great, a combination of theatrical and real world. The setting is placed around the production of a stage show, so the theatrical is very much expected. Most other countries are far less inhibited about men dancing then we are in the United States, this movie makes that clear with men dancing with women, women dancing with women and men dancing with men, all for the love of the dance. I do not consider myself professional status when it comes to Argentine Tango. I am, however, very familiar with the style and attitude, and have been trained by Argentine Professionals. If you are not expecting to hang on every word but would love to see some great dancing, This movie should please you.

 

Swingers: Single Time Swing (Jitterbug)
100% Authentic! No smoke or mirrors with this swing scene. If you have never seen this movie, don't be mislead, Despite the title "Swingers", there is only one dance scene and it's about 10 minutes before the closing credits.
This is a great movie about a bunch of LA transplants who cruise the local hot spots in search of some "Pretty Babies".

Over all - I think this was a great example of the fun a man and woman can have on the dance floor without feeling conspicuous. This dance is so real time that you can occasionally see the camera mans shadow as he walks around the dance floor. The characters Mike and Lorraine (Jon Faureau & Heather Graham) do a bang up on the dance floor. They are doing fairly basic steps with lots of single & double turns and look to be having a great time.

Note: You'll notice other dancers doing flips and more acrobatic type combinations. This is common in the swing scene and very danceable but I warn that you exercise caution and patience if you choose to learn these steps. Get instruction from an experienced dancer before you attempt to throw anybody anywhere.

 

Dirty Dancing: Mambo, Cha Cha, Fox Trot & Merengue


In the movie Patrick Swayze states that he was trained with Arthur Murray, I would not doubt for a moment that he was indeed trained by Arthur Murray..at least for this film. Arthur Murray is basically the original and probably still the largest ballroom dance school in the country.

The primary dance in this movie is the Mambo. The instructions Patrick gives Jennifer through out the movie are all correct. The most unbelievable aspect of the film is that someone as gawky as Jennifer's character could learn to dance a complex Mambo routine within the time frame she was given ( if anyone picked up on the exact time frame, please let me know )

Secondary dances were the Cha Cha, Fox Trot and Merengue, mostly danced as background shots. All of the secondary dances were for the most part danced to the correct timing with real world steps. I did notice that any shot with no dialogue was on or close to correct timing, any shot with dialogue combined with dancing threw off the timing..possibly an editing error.

Note: the Cha Cha scenes impressed me simply because they were on correct time to the music. Very often the Cha Cha is danced with the rock (or break) on the One, but it belongs on the Two as danced in Dirty Dancing.

I am often asked about the Dirty in the Dancing...
I was still in the studio when this movie came out and clearly remember people coming in asking to learn that style...bit to personal to learn from a stranger if you ask me. However, while I prefer to tone down the pelvic thrusting just a tad, this style of dancing can be a blast. Bobby Brown or myself would refer to this style as "just a little bump and grind"...and there aint nothing wrong with it! While it may appear simple, you'd be surprised how confining it feels dancing this close to someone. You need to have a strong center of gravity, a polished sense of rhythm and some frame.

 

Dance with me: Salsa, Cha Cha, Paso Doble, Samba & Rhumba
Thanks to a close personal friend, I have a deep appreciation for the Cuban culture and their music. In this movie Rafael (Chayanne) comes to the US from Cuba and meets Ruby (Vanessa Williams). The plot works around a dance studio in Texas, so there are many scenes with numerous dances and various levels of dancers. The studio scenes are some of the more flattering representations I've seen. While a few characters where a bit loopy, the general ambiance was warm and friendly...no flamboyant, scarf throwing dance instructors to be found.

Vanessa Williams impressed me. Her character is an instructor working toward reentering the competition circuit and while I was seeing Allot of familiar sharp competitive styles from other dancers, her style was a bit more smooth and rhythmic, not quite as calculated. Vanessa clearly is a dancer and she worked it in this movie. I would like to add that in regards to wardrobe and music, this movie painted a flattering picture of the competitive dance circuit. The music was soulful and upbeat, very modern. The wardrobe, while certainly flashy was surprisingly tasteful for both the men and the women. Kudos to the fashion/wardrobe designer of this project.

Note: Those unfamiliar with competitive dancing may think I'm nuts in regards to the wardrobe. All you'll need is to watch 2 or 3 airings of a Dance Sport competition on public broadcasting to see what I mean. The outfits in this movie aren't just Flashy, they have some style.

My favorite scenes are in the Cuban night clubs. (sorry for the funky image to the right, club lighting made for bad photo opp's).
Cuban music has a very strong passionate flavor, it does not just sing a song, it tells a story. I truly appreciated the clear distinction this movie made between dancing to compete and dancing to dance. Chayanne is great, his characters dancing style is far from traditional but a blast to watch. The dance floor in the Cuban club is like a community and some of the dancing is not something anyone could walk into and feel totally comfortable. It is, however, very real world and would only take a few visits for someone who knows the salsa/mambo rhythm to feel right at home.

Over all: Both dancers where great and portrayed the difference in dancing style wonderfully. All competition scenes where done tastefully, and as mentioned earlier, with flashy style. All Cuban club scenes were very fun and danceable with a few nights exposure. The dance studio scenes where not over done and pretty true to life..(the same people there most of the time and the dance parties).
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, I will certainly be purchasing the sound track. I expect the CD to have some great Cuban cha cha/salsa tracks as well as those modern Samba songs used i
n the competition.



Coming Soon (aka..as soon as I get around to it) - Scent of a Woman, Shall we dance - Please feel free to email with a movie you would like to have critiqued.

*Real world choreography: Most commonly movies throw in dances that are not truly leadable. I refer to this as theatrical dancing. Good real world choreography , in my opinion, means the movie/choreographer did justice in representing a dance that could truly be lead in a real world situation.

 

- 36345 -