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Monday, April 30th, 2012

Ballroom Rules

 

I’ve been dancing my socks off this month cinematically speaking.  First the subliminal PINA (and I am still doing the ‘4 Seasons’ dance in my head), then DANCEMAKER the documentary on one of the world’s greats contemporary choreographers PAUL TAYLOR. Followed a frenetic look at the manic craziness of kiddies competing in the World Irish Dancing Championships in JIG, and now I have capped it all with a deliciously hilarious look at same-sex couples in Australia as they practice to enter the ballroom dancing competition at the Gay Games in BALLROOM RULES.
 
All the work has been unquestionably enchanting and totally riveting, and completely unique and there is no connecting factor at all apart from one way or another they have been about people cutting a rug in some shape or form (although I’m not sure Frau Bausch would quite see it in those terms!)  And the most outstanding element about this latest movie compared to the others, is that these Australians were the very worst dancers ever BUT they were also the ones that enjoyed it the most.
 
The story starts in the autumn of 2009 and just nine months away from the World Gay Games in Germany, and Anny a vivacious blond dance instructor in Melbourne decides to cobble together a team to represent Australia in the Ballroom Dancing Competitions.  Her wee gang of lesbians and gay men are an odd assorted looking bunch and have very little experience on twirling around the floor.  But what they lack in talent and youth, they more than compensate with their passion and energy.  And the film follows them through all the trauma and dramas of the next few months including homophobia, physical injuries, their nagging self-doubts, and all the accompanying personal dramas
 
It is a joyous story about bravery and courage as much as the dancing itself.  Anny started it when she decided to open her Dance Studio solely for same-sex couples in Melbourne of all places, and in what seems like a suburban backwater … and a very straight one at that … (note to self, NEVER ever visit Melbourne), this move was both admirable and part foolhardy. It seems however to have been a big success and it provided a haven for her odd bunch of budding dancers as they try to live out their dreams. 
 
As the months pass and we get to know the couples more we share their anxieties as they are woefully underprepared for dancing on a world stage. One of the joys of the movie is that is gives us glimpses into the real lives of this merry little band away from the dance floor. Two middle-aged men bicker gently as one always forgets a new move as soon as he has learnt.  One of the pair is a mid-wife and the camera catches him practicing his steps down the hospital corridor and a really  strange sight for any poor passing stranger. The men are unintentionally hilariously funny especially when the shorter partner decides to put on what he thinks is a sexy face when doing the Latin American dances.  It’s a look that can only make you burst out laughing helplessly as the audience I saw this with did every time.
 
They there is Bridget still in remission from her recent bout of breast cancer which has given her and her partner another reason to celebrate their life together by dancing.  And Tania who’s knees are so bad it’s a miracle that she is walking, let alone dancing.   Each one has a different story but without single exception they are overwhelmingly happy and rather joyous people who just love dancing because it simply enriches their lives, and because they have a great deal of fun together.
 
 
Prior to the Games the group actually get to dance just once in a space bigger than their wee studio, and the size of what they have undertaken starts to sink in.  And when they finally get to Cologne and see all the competitors from all over the world, their hearts sink.  And so do ours. These people are real pros.  Albeit far too heavily made up and with scary coiffures and the most ridiculously over the top costumes.  They are also far too intensely serious, and we start to slowly appreciate that amongst these gay dancing heavyweights (well, not literally) it’s these few Australian couples who are going to have the most fun.  Eventually.  First the men’s planes have been delayed a few days and they will make it to Germany but only after the Opening Ceremony.  And two of the girls are still trying locate their missing luggage with all their costumes in it … evidently it was last sighted in Hong Kong.
 
And then the Competition starts in earnest, and as this is a documentary and not a fairy story (!) the Australians are eliminated in the early rounds. We share their every anxiety as they spin around the floor trying to remember their steps and avoiding bumping into other couples. Sometimes they actually succeeded in both. There is cause for celebrating too as one of the couple actually win 2nd Place in their Class.  And then just when they are all about to call it a day and go off sightseeing the two middle-aged men who had really lost the plot half way through their jive routine were told they had won a Gold Medal.  We don’t know why, but it made a happy ending to the story.
 
From the same country that gave us the sensational ‘Strictly Ballroom’ some 20 years ago, we now have this latest dancing treat. It may not be in the same league but it shares the same spirit. Be warned the fun is infectious, and this immensely enjoyable heartwarming movie will have you itching to get those patent pumps out again.
 
PS And the one thing I learnt from this is that in Ballroom Dancing there are now no such things as ‘men’s part’s’ or ‘women’s part’sevidently the different roles are called ‘followers’ and ‘leaders’.  And I know which one I want to be.
 
PPS I saw this movie as part of the MGLFF and it is currently doing the Festival Circuit.  I would so urge you to see it .. if you liked ‘Mad Hot Ballroom’, you’ll LOVE this.  Check out their facebook page to see where the next screenings are. 
 

 


Posted by queerguru  at  01:41

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