Monday, 6 June 2016

Take the lead (4 Stars)

This is the true story of Pierre Dulaine, the founder of America's Dancing Classrooms project. Sort of. The film is far removed from the real events, even though it claims to be the story of Pierre Dulaine.

Pierre Dulaine had an Irish father and a Palestininan mother. In the film he says he has a French father and a Spanish mother.

The Dancing Classrooms project was started in 1994. The film shows it being started in 2005, the year the film was made.

The Dancing Classrooms project was started for fifth grade children. The children in the film are aged about 16. That's my estimate, anyway. Look at this photo of Yaya DaCosta and tell me if you think she looks like a fifth grader.

It's best if I stick to the film for the rest of this review. Pierre Dulaine, played by Antonio Banderas, is the teacher at a school for ballroom dancing in New York. One day he observes street violence by young people, and he's filled with sympathy for the plight of the young. He visits a school and volunteers to teach the children to dance. He's given an hour each day supervising the children in detention, the ones who are the lowest of the low. At first the young people make fun of his music, because they prefer to dance to hip-hop. Slowly he persuades them that classical dancing can be exciting and sexy.

There are various sub-plots, mostly a series of romances between the children. Pierre decides who dances with who. However much the children complain about who they've been paired with, when the bodies collide on the dance floor the passions run wild.

Antonio Banderas puts on a convincing performance as a man who seems old-fashioned, but is actually very modern in his attitudes. He only likes the old dancing styles because he's convinced that they're better. I admit, I have no sympathy with ballroom dancing. It seems so rigid and formal to me. Maybe that's because I never had Antonio Banderas as a teacher.

Better still, Jennifer Tilly should have been my dance teacher. As a teenage boy I would have loved to glide around the dance floor in her arms. That would have made my blood pump harder in my veins and made me a ballroom dancer for life.

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