x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

StreetDance: You'll be moved

It may not be intellectually stimulating, but StreetDance in 3D will move you.. literally

Sometimes movies are all about managing expectations. A trip to see StreetDance, based on a belief in the ethereal cinema of quality, from Fellini to Godard to Coppola and Scorsese, will be sorely disappointing. However, rooted in context and genre, as a "let's put on a show" musical that goes right back to Judy Garland's MGM heyday (see Babes in Arms and Strike up the Band), StreetDance becomes at worst, ineffably satisfying, and at best, crassly magnificent.

Though set entirely in a pristine sun-baked London, more Beverly Boulevard than Bethnal Green, the narrative set-up will be achingly familiar to connoisseurs of the recent Step Up and Stomp dance movie franchises. Here a plucky young dancer called Carly (Nichola Burley) must lead her rag-tag team of eccentric body-poppers to the finals of the UK Street Dance Championships. Unfortunately, there's just one catch - along the way she must share rehearsal space, befriend and eventually collaborate with a bunch of, gasp, snooty ballet students, led by the supercilious yet muscle-bound Tomas (Richard Winsor).

Thus the movie, which is directed by pop promo veterans Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini, asks, will Carly and her friends win the championships? Will she fall in love, against her better instincts, with Tomas? And will she be involved in just over 25 musical montages that will propel the film seamlessly through corny line-readings and join-the-dots plotting to a place of giddy foot-tapping coherence? As Carly would say: "Like, you have to ask?!"

The real kick, nonetheless, in StreetDance is in the incidentals. In the 3D version, which is making its way around the globe, and which has so far proven a box office smash in the UK, the visuals have been handled with a certain stylish elan. It understands, like Avatar before it, the new formal phase of 3D development and it tries hard not to throw objects at the camera lens (and thus into the auditorium).

Instead it uses 3D mostly for depth of field, often returning repeatedly to breathtaking aerial shots of early morning London, orange-lit, hazy, and with a horizontal axis that seems to recede into infinity. Elsewhere, when Carly attends a Royal Ballet production of Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet, in a truly bravura sequence, the ballet itself is depicting hanging just in front of Carly's face, out in front of the screen, on an entirely different focal plane, while Carly watches the action agog.

This might just be the first genuinely experimental and artistic use of 3D in the modern revolution so far. It is, though, the dance sequences that define the movie, and they are delivered with a relentless intensity that's always fresh, never repetitive. Even when they don't quite ignite (as in a contrived face-off between the ballet and the street dancers) these sequences are never dull. And when they do catch fire, as in the second act climax - a multi-strand montage to Ironik's Tiny Dancer remix - they're positively incandescent.

It may not be intellectually stimulating, but StreetDance will move you. Literally.