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"Strictly Ballroom " Dance Movie Review

Article written by : Pele Lim of RpMerleon, 30 November 1996

Have been fascinated and will forever be fascinated with this movie, truly the first movie about ballroom dancing. First watched it on a LD (laser disk, no longer available as this technology is now obsolete) when Robin was trying to chase after me by inviting my group of social dancing freaks to a home theater movie show. Well, it worked wonders and now we are husband and wife dance movie freaks!

This Australian movie was the country's 1992 screen hits. It employs a narrative method to tell the story which gives a very refreshing feel. Do not pay too much attention to the actors' execution of the dance techniques nor the fact that Paso Doble is not an un-approved dance form in dance championships.

It starts with a big bang with Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio), all of 17-18 years old, competing with his long time partner, Liz (Gia Carides) in a very prestigious championship dancing the Samba with vibrant music. He starts to express his personal feelings and choreographs his own dance steps on the fly, flipping his partner all over. Naturally his partner is shocked and the adjudicators decide to disqualify them due to unapproved variations being used.

Scott is targeted for a number of championships but he decides to abandon the Dance Federation's rigid steps and choreographs his own. A few rounds of cajoling by his Mother, a former national ballroom dance champion and his fellow dance studio mates, Scott decides to try again with Liz. But, his passion got the upper hold and again he tries to choreograph dance steps that caused his partner to burst into tears and swears never to compete with him ever again. Scott then have a series of try-outs with many other lady partners but all ended up in failure.

Another dance student of the studio of Mexican decent, Fran (Tara Morice), admires Scott's dancing ability and secretly hopes to partner him. She unfortunately belongs to the lower dance level categories and periodically partners fellow students, dancing the guy's steps. She is considered plain and will not amount to much in dance competitions.

It so happens that one night in the dance studio, Fran expresses her own feelings through her own choreographed dance variations and Scott is impressed and dances the Rumba with her. From then on, Fran has private lessons with Scott and she improves by leaps and bounds but nobody in the studio knows about this. Fran's Father is against her dancing and once when she is forbidden to go to the studio to practice, Scott decides to pay her family a visit. Scott manages to convince her father that they are sincere in dance and even managed to learn the passo rhythm from the heart from Fran's grandmother and father for a period of time.

Fran's Grandmother chips in and manages to whip up a costume for Fran, formally worn by Fran's mother.

Scott's Mother is in tears when she knows that Scott is intent on deviating from the norm. She and the Adjudicator have no choice but to tell him the story of the man captured in the old photo wearing Number Tag 100 competing with his Mother. That man was Scott's Father whom Scott never thought could dance. It seems that Scott's Father was a man ahead of his time and did exactly what Scott did, choreographing his own steps that brought his downfall. He vowed never to dance again so Scott's Mother partnered with the Adjudicator and became the national ballroom champions.

Bowing to pressure in order to satisfy everyone's expectations, Scott decides to team up with his former partner and aims for the champion positions in the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Ballroom Dancing Latin Competition. Heartbroken, Fran turns back to dancing the guy's steps in low lever events in the championship. After having a heart to heart talk with his Father, Scott decides on the spot to partner his love, Fran instead for the last dance the Paso Doble.

What a transformation Fran makes! The ugly duckling becomes the swan and everyone is wowed. Due to self-interest and to discourage such outright disobedience, the chief adjudicator decides to disqualify them and stopped the music from playing. This chairman of the Dance Federation also decides to perform an underhanded decision by awarding the champion positions to the drunkered competitor & his partner. But everyone can see that competitor is too drunk to dance properly.

What is going to happen? Go watch the movie!

All that glitter, shimmy costume, powerful and engaging story line carves a very deep impression into my skull and can never be erased. Nevermind the lousy ballroom hold and the chaotic latin footworks, it is still a very touching story and would be well loved by many.

Last updated: 30 Nov 96
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RpMerleon Studios' websites are to keep all dance competitors, ballroom dancers, dance enthusiasts & dance instructors up to date on the ballroom dancing and dancesport scene in Singapore & Asia region. To provide feedback or to publish any news/photos, do post in the Forum or send us an email: dance@rpmerleon.com. Copyright©RpMerleon since 1996 by Robin Chee & Pele Chee-Lim.