Tanya Khovanova's Dance Movie Reviews

I love ballroom dancing. I've been taking ballroom dance lessons for several years now. As a result I watch every ballroom dance movie there is, as well as other types of dance movies from time to time. Here are my reviews of dance movies.

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Dancing is my hobby. You can check out my dance exercise DVD reviews. Also, since I work as a mathematician and consider myself to be a math entertainer, I have reviewed fun math books and toys for your brain.

The Red Shoes (4 stars)

DVD link on the left.

If you like old British movies, you might love this one. There is a lot of lovely ballet dancing in this movie. I was most touched by the plotline that explores how much the ballerina is willing to sacrifice for her career.

The owner of her ballet company says, "A dancer who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great dancer. Never." I've found that a career in mathematics is very similar to a career in dancing. People who are ready to sacrifice everything else for mathematics have an advantage.

Take the Lead (4 stars)

DVD link on the left.

This movie is based on a true story about a dance teacher who started the program featured in the documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom". Take the Lead's plot is primitive and predictable. However, I liked best its view that dancing is an activity that builds trust and relationships. The tango number at 37 minutes into the movie is amazing. On the DVD they have a special feature allowing you to watch the tango scene from 4 different angles.

Mad Hot Ballroom (3 stars)

DVD link on the left, download on the right.

This is a documentary about kids learning to dance. My friends who do not dance loved this movie — it is very inspiring. Do not see this movie if you are mostly interested in dance steps. You might enjoy it if you like the atmosphere of dancing.

Strictly Ballroom (5 stars)

DVD link on the left.

This is my favorite ballroom dance movie. Too often the story in a dance movie is very predictable and is not played well. In Strictly Ballroom the acting is exaggerated — they do not act too seriously and as a result, the movie becomes fun to watch.

The story revolves around dance competitions, so you see a lot of good dancing, and the dramatic intrigue is interesting too.

Shall We Dance? (American) (4 stars)

DVD link on the left.

This movie is a remake of a Japanese movie with the same title. The Japanese movie has a more convincing narrative. Actually, the plots are similar, but they are dependent on the Japanese culture, so the story seems somewhat strange in the US. In Japan it might make sense to be ashamed of getting involved in dancing — in this country nobody is supposed to care. Also, in the American version a lot of sugar was added to the plot — or maybe corn syrup :-).

This movie has gems of its own. I love Paulina's explanation of how to dance the rumba in scene 9 at min 53-54. I also love the tango number, when Paulina teaches John to feel the dance in scene 11.

Shall We Dance? (Japanese) (5 stars)

DVD link on the left.

This original film is more subtle than the American version, more interesting, more believable, less flashy and has better drama.

White Nights (4 stars)

DVD link on the left.

This movie touches me on many levels. It is a story of the Soviet Era and it belongs to the past — to my past. At the same time it has a lot of dancing: tap dancing by Gregory Hines and classical dancing by Mikhail Baryshnikov. White Nights features my favorite dance number ever, as Mikhail Baryshnikov dances to my favorite Vladimir Vysotsky song, "Koni priveredlivye". This song stirs myriad emotions in me, and although I don't understand how he did it, Mikhail was able to express them in the dance.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (2 stars)

DVD link on the left.

In this boring movie, the dancing was too acrobatic for my taste. It was obvious that Sarah Jessica Parker wasn't doing her own dancing and she looked too old for the part.

Flamenco (3 stars)

DVD link on the left.

I was disappointed that this DVD didn't have more dancing, especially since there are not many flamenco movies around. So for the latter reason, I am glad that I have this DVD.

I have to mention that for the DVD cover photo, they show a couple dancing. In reality flamenco dancers do not dance together, so by using this image they are kind-of cheating. I hate cheaters.

One Last Dance (3 stars)

DVD link on the left, download on the right.

The melodramatic part of this movie is trivial and predictable. This is a shame because this movie has a LOT of dancing: not ballroom dancing, but ballet dancing that is modern, interesting, beautiful and emotional. I loved many of the dancing scenes, but the one that especially caught my attention is at 1 hour 15 minutes. Rather than being technical, it is extremely expressive; it felt like a conversation through movement.

Salsa (3 stars)

DVD link on the left.

The plot is cheesy and primitive. I preferred the less trivial subplot of an older woman who is a more experienced dancer and who is trying to control Rico. She is awfully evil though.

As for the film's dancing, Rico moves beautifully throughout the whole movie and is a pleasure to watch. I like the foreplay mixed with salsa dancing in scene 5. I also like the salsa practice in scene 14 and the competition dancing in the last scene, scene 20.

Lambada (1 star)

DVD link on the left.

This is a terrible movie on every level: bad acting, boring plot, contradictions in the plot line, excessive cheesiness.

I couldn't find even one interesting dancing scene. Most of the dancing is filmed too close — you can only see faces or legs. This prevents you from seeing the dancing as a whole, and you can't learn new steps.

Footloose (2 stars)

DVD link on the left.

Footloose is not a dance movie. Rather, it is a film about dancing, or, more precisely, peoples' right to dance. This movie is about the dark ages of democracy.

There isn't much dancing in the movie. Thirty-six minutes into the movie there is a small dance number, full of gymnastics, plus it is apparent that the performer is a stunt double for Kevin Bacon. If you like watching people dance you will be frustrated with this movie as you have to wait until the very end to see some dancing.

Last revised March 2009