Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Dance craze: boom or bust?

What do you think of when you think of dance films? Films which incorporate ballet, tap, contemporary or street dance have all had their place in the box office in years gone by but is the dance craze in Hollywood in boom or bust?

We've heard lots about Natalie Portman's travails as a fictional prima ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's film, but she's just the latest in a long line of doomed cinematic dancers. Or is she?

When Natalie Portman took on the role of the Black Swan in the newest box office smash, she really did take it on. She became the character, embodying the attitudes and dark sinister tones of the story and creating an underworld to the usually up-beat, inspirational themes seen in this movie genre.

Straying away from the typical hip hop, street dance film, Black Swan takes a leap ahead of the tired plot of the dance movie and combines the art of ballet with the raw abilities of the human mind and human interaction. Portman, as an actress makes a new debut as not just an accomplished actress but as a dancer, one in the long line of actors to do so. She even spent a year before filming learning ballet.

Natalie isn’t the first actor or actress to turn her attentions to the more physical art-form. Some, such as Channing Tatum, Julia Stiles and Jennifer Grey have made their names in dance films and used their active talents to spring-board them into Hollywood. Step Up 1, 2 and 3 (in 3D), Save the Last Dance and Dirty Dancing are frequently synonymous with the said actors and you’d be hard pushed to find someone not familiar with these famed films. They all have their place in the collection of guilty pleasure dance films. For dance enthusiasts, they inspire choreography and technique but for the masses, who for an hour and a half think they could be dance lovers, the dance film is something really entertaining, harmless and cheerful, aspirational even.

Inspirations aside, there has been a fair share of dance flops in this genre. Anyone heard of Stomp the Yard, Honey or Take the Lead where Antonia Banderas swaps his cape and Zorro mask for a more svelte ensemble? These few amongst many box office disasters are by no means the worst, but as dance films go, people’s interpretations seem to generally be laced with apprehension and an affinity to a cheesy story line.

Black Swan may just have begun to change the perceptions of combining film with dance by scooping awards at both the Baftas and the Golden Globes. Although the acclaimed Black Swan was not really all it was cracked up to be, Natalie Portman definitely showed that a spot of talent and dedication really do go a long way in creating an art that is worth the watch.

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