x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

All the right moves

The dance movie comprises a genre all its own. Here is our take on the top ten dance films in history.

Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain is the quintessential dance scene.
Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain is the quintessential dance scene.

"You need to step it up if you are going to win the dance contest," insists the fierce dance teacher in the Wayans brothers' new spoof, Dance Flick, set for global release this summer. This sort of tough but kindly mentor crops up in almost all dance movies. In fact, as Dance Flick acknowledges, dance movies follow a rigid structure, with a familiar cast of characters and predictable story arc. A young star whose mother has died (Save the Last Dance, Billy Elliott) longs to be a dancer. He or she meets what seems at first to be an inappropriate partner either because of class or race (Save the Last Dance, Strictly Ballroom, Dirty Dancing, Saturday Night Fever), but after initial friction they find that they click and eventually fall in love. With the guidance of a mentor (-Billy Elliott, Fame) they finally achieve their ambition. The human spirit triumphs and the dancers frug with enthusiastic abandon. Yet despite, or perhaps because of, the rigid nature of the genre, dance movies have proved enduringly popular. Critics have suggested it's because they are compact versions of the American dream, full of sweat, struggle and ambition. Or perhaps it's because they are so entertaining. After all, while everyone knows that CGI effects are not real, a flamboyant dance -sequence cannot be faked. But there's another, more down-to-earth reason. The possibilities for spin-off hit records, merchandise and sequels make them catnip for any canny producer. As this list demonstrates, when a dance movie goes big, it goes very big indeed. Singin' in the Rain (1952) Bring a brolly - it's the most famous solo dance sequence of all time. There are plenty of song-and-dance routines in this paean to "talking pictures", but it is Gene Kelly's done-in-one-take solo that is cinema's most enduring dance sequence. The western star Howard Keel was originally slated for the part Kelly made famous. Astonishing fact: Milk was added to the water so it would show up -better on film. They said: "A lump of Technicolor sugar," The New York Times. Saturday Night Fever (1977) The dance movie by which all other dance movies are measured. With an unforgettable 15-million-selling soundtrack album by the Bee Gees, a charismatic star and Manhattan as the glittery mirror ball at its heart, Saturday Night Fever is the dance movie fan's dance movie. It follows the attempts of the blue--collar man about town Tony Manero to escape his going-nowhere Brooklyn life and make it to the Oz-like paradise of Manhattan where success awaits. All he has to do is find a partner and win a disco dance contest. Astonishing fact: Saturday Night Fever was based on an article in New York magazine by the writer Nik Cohn. The article, purporting to be a journalistic account of Brooklyn teenagers, was a total invention. They said: "It's interesting to see how little screen time the final disco competition really has, considering how large it looms in our memories," Chicago Sun-Times. Fame (1980) Back then you had to pay for fame in sweat. Now, you just go on Big Brother. Notable for its quaint ideas about the nature of fame - back then it was not viewed as the province of the desperate or disturbed - Alan Parker's movie about the New York School for the Performing Arts balanced its spontaneous scenes of dancing atop yellow taxi cabs and jamming in the lunch room with gritty insights into young-adult loneliness and insecurity. Astonishing fact: Parker's previous two films were the cutesy children's gangster movie Bugsy Malone and the horrific Turkish prison saga Midnight Express. They said: "The music and dancing are spectacular," All Movie Guide. Flashdance (1983) A beautiful welder - yes, a welder, longs to just dance, dance, dance! When Bob Geldof, after having gained the attention of the director Adrian Lyne with his performance in the Pink Floyd film The Wall, was -offered a role in Flashdance he found that he couldn't read the script without dissolving into hysterics. It's not hard to see why. An astonishingly beautiful girl works as a welder in Pittsburgh, but dreams of being a ballerina, so she dances at a regular-Joe bar that, curiously, seems to enjoy avant-garde performance art. After deflecting the advances of her charming boss, she manages to fulfil her dreams. Astonishing fact: Despite its premise, Flashdance became a global smash hit and one of the most popular dance films of all time. They said: "Flashdance contains such dynamic dance scenes that it's a pity there's a story here to bog them down," The New York Times. Footloose (1984) Flashdance with tractors! Footloose is notable for one of the most excruciatingly awkward solo dance sequences in cinematic history. Kevin Bacon, who plays the town rebel Ren McCormack, is fed up with the ban on rock music insisted upon by John Lithgow's conservative, Midwestern preacher and dances away his frustrations in a large cattle shed. Sarah Jessica Parker stars as the college student Rusty. Astonishing fact: Paramount is planning a remake starring Zac Efron. They said: "The single burning idea behind the movie can be summed up as follows: Don't Knock the Rock," The New York Times. Strictly Ballroom (1992) How Baz Luhrmann got his start Originally a student film, Baz -Luhrmann's lurid imagination soon got the better of this simple story and turned it into a riot of low--budget kitsch. Luhrmann's fish-eye lens takes delight in turning ballroom dancing's old guard into diamanté-studded gargoyles. Perfect for those who enjoy thick slabs of Australian cheese. Astonishing fact: The hip dance -music duo Basement Jaxx say Strictly Ballroom is their favourite film. They said: "A good-humoured ride for the senses, never too sickly, and who can say no to that?" The New Yorker. Dirty Dancing (1987) A nice girl falls for a dance -instructor from the wrong side of the tracks and, as a direct result, America loses its innocence. Set in a Catskills resort town in 1963, this coming of age drama stars Jennifer Grey as Baby, a nice girl who falls in love with a womanising dance teacher, played by Patrick Swayze, while rehearsing sultry routines. In the movie's climactic scene, Swayze pulls Baby up from the family table where she has been told to sit, and insists she perform with him one -final time. As he does so, he utters the film's most famous line: "No one puts Baby in the corner." Astonishing fact: Dirty Dancing was the first movie to sell a million copies on home video and made $300 million (Dh1.1billion) worldwide at the box office. They said: "The potency of this -pop romantic can't be denied," Newsweek. Billy Elliott (2000) It's not easy being an 11-year-old ballet dancer when your dad is an striking miner from Durham. Dead mother, a frustrated father, a tough but kindly mentor, on the face of it Billy Elliott seems a tap dancing cliché. But the miners' strike and the British class system complicate what could be a trite tale and make this movie worth the three Oscar nominations it won. As Billy tries to escape his small-town origins for a place at the Royal Academy in London, his teacher warns him: "If you go out to find life, you lose other things." Astonishing fact: The stage musical that is based on the film has won 73 international awards, including 10 Tony Awards earlier this month. They said: "Billy Elliott strikes a delicate balance of comedy and -pathos with an uplifting final act that delivers a resoundingly satisfying emotional pay-off," Variety. Save the Last Dance (2001) Dirty Dancing goes hip-hop. When Sara's (Julia Stiles) well-to-do mother dies in a car accident, the young ballet student turns her back on classical dance and goes to live downtown with her estranged father. There she meets Chenille, a girl who teaches her to look cool and dance - street-style. With the help of Chenille's brother, Derek, Stiles's stuck-up character learns the new moves and falls in love. Everyone else enthusiastically throws shapes on the dancefloor to celebrate her reborn self-confidence. Astonishing fact: This MTV-funded movie won an MTV award for Best Kiss. They said: "Save the Last Dance -triumphantly passes the audition," Chicago Tribune. Step Up 2 the Streets (2008) Don't worry about the plot, check those abs! With a plot that witlessly traces the outlines of the class and race issues common to almost all dance movies, most critics agreed that Step Up 2 the Streets was best enjoyed for its hot young bods and kinetic dance routines. Flashdance goes hip-hop. Astonishing fact: Gross revenue was $150 million (Dh500m). They said: "It doesn't skimp on cool pretzel moves," Entertainment Weekly.