Monday, April 15, 2013

When a Dancer Becomes a Dance

Flashdance was released on April 15, 1983

Given the 30 year anniversary of Flashdance, I have been looking at some of the classic dance movies of the late '70s and early to mid '80s. In my youth, I was not a fan of the genre. However, I've grown to enjoy both the performance aspects of such movies and the symbolic significance that dancing holds within the narrative.

So, in Saturday Night Fever, the dance is a form of escapism, a way of forgetting the slow death of daily life, an uplifting moment when pride overcomes despair. In Fame, the performances are about honing a unique genius for expression, a distinct talent that can lift one from obscurity and hardship, bringing the much desire fame. In Footloose, rebellion, from stifling rules and small town petty "moralism", is expressed through the dance. And, in Dirty Dancing, the confidence and self-determination of adulthood is gained through the dance.

But in Flashdance, what is the purpose of the dance? Well, it's a glass slipper. The means through which Cinderella may become a princess, and catch a prince. Unlike the other classic dance movies of the era, the story is too simplistic and contrived to carry any deeper message. While her friends may fail at realizing their dreams, Alex prevails by narrative fiat over her uncertainties and social awkwardness to win the prize.

Jennifer Beals starred as Alexandra Owens, a welder by day and exotic dancer by night.

Well, the story was really mediocre, but the dance scenes are fun. The cinematography and editing style became vastly influential, having an obvious influence upon later movies, such as Footloose and Dirty Dancing. Although there is no "training montage" scene, the framework of the genre staple is laid out in the "Maniac" practice scene. Yeah, we luv the '80s. ;-)

So, in celebration, put on your dancing shoes, take your passion, and make it happen. What a feeling!!!

And some vids:

"Maniac" by Michael Sembello

"He's a Dream" by Shandi Sinnamon

"Flashdance. . . What a Feeling" by Irene Cara


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