Tag Archives: dance

Natasha Cope, The Time of Our Lives: Self-Discovery in the 1980s Dance Film.




This video essay explores how self-discovery is conveyed in the dance films of the 1980s, utilising the four most well-known examples: Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987), Footloose (Herbert Ross, 1984), Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983), and Fame (Alan Parker, 1980). These films are notorious examples of the ways in which dance is used to reflect a transition from adolescence to adulthood, alongside predominant societal issues during this period in America that denote how the characters undergo a process of self-discovery. The essay uses montages, that are reminiscent of the montages seen in these films, combined with voice-over narration to illustrate how this is conveyed visually in the films. Susan A. Reed outlines key ideas in ‘The Politics and Poetics of Dance’ and I apply her work to these films in terms of how “dance may reflect and resist cultural values simultaneously”.


I explore the ways in which Dirty Dancing subverts the dominant male gaze and instead positions Patrick Swayze’s Johnny Castle as the object of desire as opposed to Jennifer Grey’s Baby Houseman becoming the object of male sexual fantasy and desire. Swayze is typically considered to be sexualised and an object of sexual desire to a higher extent than Grey, whose desiring gaze we see enacted through frequent point of view shots throughout the duration of the film as can be seen in the scenes I have chosen to include in this video essay. Visual and thematic connections are made between Dirty Dancing and Footloose here in terms of sexual freedom and self-discovery.


These joyful moments of expression found in the electric dance sequences represent shifting attitudes and a promise of social mobility that is reflected in the visuals of this video essay due to the use of montage. Characters that are otherwise marginalised are allowed momentarily to become rulers of their domain and split screen comparisons are used to illustrate this. My use of music is that of the soundtracks from the films in order to replicate and convey the energy seen within the narratives that the presence of dance sequences create.





Eavesdropping at the Movies: 295 – Suspiria (1977) and Suspiria (2018)

We explore Dario Argento’s Suspiria, his 1977 horror classic, and its loose remake by Luca Guadagnino, from 2018. We’ve never seen either, although Argento’s film casts a long shadow – those who’ve seen it never forget it, and it’s easy to see why. Its visual design is bold, imaginative and beautiful, the images it creates extraordinary, its violence heightened and wild. José loves it, literally wowed by it, captivated by its cinematic flair and interesting casting. But, Mike argues, it’s a film that offers nothing beyond the aesthetic, uninterested in its own characters or story, which leaves him cold.

Our responses to Guadagnino’s remake are reversed entirely. For Mike, it’s superior: ambitious, keen to mine the threadbare original for thematic depth, and laudably attempting to weave together generational guilt, dance, institutional corruption and women’s bodies into a complex tapestry, although one which requires too much audience participation to complete. José thinks he’s giving a pretentious work of ego far too much credit, is turned off by the dance scenes, annoyed at the lack of connection he finds between its wider themes and central coven, angered by its grey, wintry colour palette and dry cinematography… in fact, he’s angered by all of it! Now he knows how his friends felt as he valiantly tried to argue them into appreciating Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, which he loved, but which many of them greeted with similar hostility.

The original a cult classic, its remake a very different take on the core premise – both are worth watching. But if our responses are anything to go by, your mileage may vary considerably.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 99 – Climax

A group of dancers parties the night away, but someone has spiked the sangria with LSD. There are extraordinarily long takes, sex, drugs, violence, and horror. Yes, it’s a Gaspar Noé film.

Climax is a singular cinematic escape into a vision of Hell. Boy, there’s a lot going on. We grapple with the film’s themes of sex, violence, drugs, youth, dance, sexuality, nationality, culture, and whatever else we can remember of its insane 96 minutes. We discuss what we did and didn’t like about the dancing – the pros and cons of the way it’s shot – and what value there is in extraordinary cinematic violence in a world in which footage of horrific real-life violence is commonplace. We discuss the detail of Climax‘s cinematography and editing and the effects they have on our experiences, particularly shooting upside-down and inserting almost subconsciously brief flashes of black frames in otherwise normal cuts. We’re reminded of Do the Right ThingThe Exterminating Angel, and Salò, and indeed Climax wears its influences on its sleeve. José reads it allegorically, finding reference to Europe, cultural power, and race, though so far adding it all up remains beyond us.

It fired Mike up enough to have a go at a guy who’d had his phone on during the cinema, but it enveloped José so completely that he didn’t even notice the distraction. And Mike made a film like this once! As he puts it, “Not as good as this, probably, but a lot shorter.” You can see that here if you like:

In short, Climax is certainly worth your time. There’s so much going on and we’ll be seeing it again when the mac screens it in November.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.