Strictly Ballroom
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Strictly Ballroom

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Watching people dancing has been a form of entertainment literary for thousands of years, perhaps it’s the vicarious thrill of watching people performing act of unimaginable grace and athleticism might be beyond and level the viewer might achieve but is certainly is a lot of fun to watch. Evidence of this can be definitively found in the recent proliferation of dance competition on television. The film under consideration here, ‘Strictly Ballroom’ is an example of the inevitable progression to movies. This is not at all a stretch of the imagination since dance based films has been an important part of cinematic expression for as long as movies where presented with sound tracks. The film is part of the Walt Disney stable produced by their independent oriented Miramax division. Disney has been keeping scripted dance infused vehicles afloat through a combination of their town oriented sit coms and youthfully targeted original films and musical franchises. In any case Miramax cum Disney possessed the expertise, understanding and access to talent necessary to bring ball room dance back into the mainstream movies.

Of all the recognized forms of dance ballroom is one of the styles most restricted by stylistic regulation, form definitions and formal constrains on what moves are considered within the scope or acceptability. While not as ancient or socially refined as ballet, ballroom is regarded as stuffy and anachronistic particularly by the younger portion of the demographic. It would take the master craftsmen who are part of the Walt Disney Corporation to make ballroom dancing enjoyable to the teenage members of the audience. in order to achieve this the film combines themes commonly found in teen angst flicks and blends in some sports movie tropes , stir vigorously an decant this extremely fun movie. What is unusual in this push to popularize this type of dance is the cast is on the mature side. In this case the appeal to the youthful end of the demographic was achieved by infusing energy into the proceedings placing it on the same playing field as the free form dance style currently popular on birth the big and small screens. The cast may be more than twice the age of the portion of the audience being by the energy and thematic foundation as any straightforward Disney teen oriented musical. It is also important to keep in mind although just now receiving a Blu-ray edition the original release of the film was 1992

Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is a young Australian man driven by a passion. For much of his life he pursued his dream of dancing. Strongly individualistic by nature he frequently found himself struggling against traditional forms in favor of establishing his own unique style of dance. His goal was to win the coveted to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship which traditionally insisted on a strict adherence to the precepts of ballroom dance as an art form. Scott comes from a family dedicated to dance. His mother, Shirley (Pat Thomson), teaches after retiring from active competition as a lauded champion. She began training Scott with the intentions of him taking the Grand Prix honors as soon as he could walk intensifying the regiment throughout his life. While Scott views his alterations to the formal steps a matter of personal expression. He was driven by pride and a need to be true to his own way of expressing his love of dance. To others including his family, Scott’s blatant disregard for staunchly enforced regulations. One of the greatest obstacles to achieving the win he e=was bred to have was the undisputed authority of the contest, Barry Fife (Bill Hunter), a man who regards an deviation from the tradition as tantamount to heresy. As the reigning president of the Australian Dancing Federation his opinion is fundamental law. When Scott’s partner, Liz Holt (Gia Carides), leaves him only one woman believes in him, Fran (Tara Morice), who agrees to become his new partner. She is unpolished, downplaying attractiveness but when Scott notices she inserted a decidedly non-ballroom step, pasodoble, into the routine he realizes she’s the one. Fran is not only an outcast for dance stylistic preferences her Hispanic Gypsy heritage places her on decidedly lower social ranking. It also explains her expertise in the energetic, traditionally Latin inspired style. As it is later revealed Scott’s parents didn’t compete together because of his father, Doug’s (Barry Otto) insistence on using his own stylistic interpretations. Such disregard for the traditional forms was inherited by Scott and his mother’s strong objections were founded on her not wanting the family history to be repeated.

The film’s cross generational appeal is set in its reflection of the main them; the important of individual manifestation of style, especially in artistic expressions such as dance. Dancing should be liberating, emotional and reflect the personalities of the participants. People with a myopic view of a form of dance as represented by Fife, he replaced joy with hide bound regulations. This is a frequent theme when considering the works of the filmmaker behind this movie, Baz Luhrmann. He was instrumental in the revival of the big musical with his 2001 opus’ Moulin Rouge!’ If you check out his curriculum vitae you’ll notice ‘Strictly Ballroom was his initial offering. This would set the stage for the main influences and directorial style that made him a trailblazer in the use of song, dance and visual exuberance that remains his trade mark.

In this movie Luhrmann adopts a semi documentary feel that oddly enough works better now than twenty years ago. It come close to emulating the ‘behind the scenes’ segments inevitable part of the so called reality TV series include the heavily proliferated dance contest motif. What Luhrmann so confidently achieves here is a story that clearly defines the obstacles faced by the principle characters and their development arc that depicts the effort and dedication required to overcome them. This is a classic triumph of the underdog movie, one that more recently would conclude with an all-out dance off to vindicate the down trodden protagonists. This universal theme is a vital to day as it was when it originally released and manages to reverberate on a deep emotional level to the modern audience. the young people today are certainly not blind to talent an there is plenty on both sides of the camera to illicit an affinity to what is considered by many to be an outdated for of dance. The sheer expression of the individual and importance of believing in yourself is timeless and presented exceptionally well in this film.

Posted 04/25/2013

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