April 16, 2011

Dance, Dance: Out of Step With the Pleasures of Its Convention

Dance, Dance adheres to a number of formulaic dance-movie conventions... up to a point. So while you'll find the seeds of the classic story of one innocent and eager newcomer (Ju Jin-mo) who starts off as the rehearsal studio's laughing stock only to discover that he's got real talent -- and an unexpected passion -- for dance, what doesn't follow is the triumphant emergence of a breakout star who has climbed from the very bottom of the ranks. Far from it, this newbie instead causes his ragtag troupe to lose a major gig on broadcast television before dropping out so he can continue his medical studies. Who saw that coming? Not me! Equally deflating is the mishandling of that beloved cliche about the quotidian struggles of dancers/best-friends who love, fight, perform, disband and reunite as they strive for success and fame. This time, the scrappy troupe neither wins the big competition nor overthrows the undermining TV producer who won't let them rehearse for their music video. Instead, these guys spend an inordinate amount of time and energy putting up posters for a b-boy revue in which they will play a fairly lame part. Again, true-to-life but why? Couldn't we lie for the sake of pleasure?

As to the romance that could've salvaged Dance, Dance, let's just say that the spark-less relationship between the dance diva (Hwang In-yeong) and her shy protege (Yang, as mentioned above) is a platonic one that probably won't outlast the credits. What draws them together? She's respectful of his having a career outside dance and tickled by his enthusiasm for the form. As to her attractions for him, outside of a killer waistline, she's really representing the artist's way more than she's inspiring love or lust or longing for the unattainable. He's not so much infatuated with her as he is fantasizing about being her, about being a dancer, an artist, someone not so square as he so helplessly, hopelessly is. I wouldn't go so far as to say his character is gay but if he is, he's the kind of quietly repressed gay who's so out-of-touch with his inner life that he probably won't realize his sexual orientation until he's 40 and then only after he's taken a dance class for nostalgia's sake at the community center. In summation, Dance, Dance has no inspiring journey of self-discovery, no good guys vs. bad guys drama, no sappy love story, no knock-your-socks off dance routines -- unless you count a brief clip of a trio of guys spinning on their heads. Which I won't.

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