There are several dance forms and styles all over the world which have their own meaning in different cultures and religions. In some, it might express the devotion towards their gods, while in some it may represent the act of a healing process. In some communities, it might be the way to express their joy of freedom while in some it might be the weapon of the oppressed to fight against their establishment. Whatever the individual reasons might be one thing is true that Dance is ubiquitous. We might also have once in a while found ourselves swiveling to the beat and the music.
Similarly, dance also has a profound meaning in cinemas. From musicals to iconic dance sequences they all have their individual impact on the audiences. From the feeling of being in love in Singing in the Rain to the expression of devotion to the cult in Midsommar, from uniting a whole town in order to save it in Footloose to the battle to regain the lost respect in Step Up movies, dance transcends the barrier of language, race, society, nation and uniting everyone into this common piece of beautiful art.
I want to discuss mainly 4 movies with powerful dancing sequences when it comes to expression and holding the most prominent positions in the respective movie.
(Spoilers Ahead for Mother…)
First comes Bong Joon Ho directed 2009 underrated gem Mother. The movie indeed starts with the character of the mother dancing nonchalantly in the yellow paddy fields. At first glance, we actually feel the powerful and empowering message behind that dance because we the audiences are unknown about the events that have transpired. Later during the movie when we get to know the harrowing events that took place just before this dance, we begin to sway our feelings of empowerment to a more disturbing side. We can see a mother’s love and obsession with her son. We can see the height a mother goes through in the movie just to protect her son even not restraining herself from killing someone just to clear off her son’s name from the murder convict. It’s amazing how the same dance can be powerful, empowering, disturbing, and harrowing at the same time.
The second powerful scene is from the 2000 movie Billy Elliot. Here the character of Billy is challenging and confronting against his father’s restraining manners and dances freely like a free bird. Billy and his family come from a poor family of coal miners and live a frugal life. When his father sends him to learn boxing, Billy is instead attracted to ballet dance. He starts learning the craft of ballet and becomes pretty good at it. Billy then uses dance as a medium to portray his emotions. The moment when his father gives a surprise visit to him in the gym and finds Billy performing ballet instead of boxing is the most powerful scene in the movie. Here his father feels embarrassed at first seeing Billy doing ballet as he thinks dancing is something inferior. Then Billy rebels and performs a beautiful dance sequence to express his anger and rebellious nature. Only then his father realizes that Billy is truly gifted and breaks down in guilt.
The third dancing scene is from the Taika Waititi directed 2019 movie Jojo Rabbit. Elsa, a Jewish teen girl who loves dancing is hiding inside Jojo’s home as a refugee. Once asked by Jojo to her “What’s the first thing you’d do when you’re free” to which she replies “Dance”. Keeping this detail in mind towards the finale of the movie when Germany loses the war and American soldiers occupy Germany Elsa is now finally free. And guess what’s the first thing that she does when she comes out of the house to celebrate the newfound freedom? Yes, Dance, she and Jojo dance to the beat of “Heroes” by David Bowie but in the German version. This expression of freedom through the act of dance is both powerful and heartwarming.
So finally the 4th powerful dancing sequence in a movie is our own Nepali movie Soongaava. Well, I tried to search for Nepali movies that would have truly justified the essence of dancing but it’s hard to even find movies with powerful dancing sequences rather than on musical songs and then I stumbled upon Soongava. Directed by Subarna Thapa and released in 2012, Soongava was probably the first Nepali movie to portray and present the lesbian love story on the big screens. It’s a story about two couples Kiran and Diya. Diya loves to dance, she is learning and teaching dance at the same time. We can’t clearly see her performing a dance during the movie and she is quite a reserved kind of girl. But when the tragedy strikes towards the culmination of the movie, Diya is seen vigorously dancing to the classical tunes trying to convey her anger, frustration, and the feelings inside her that are bursting through the medium of dance.
Movies are always a representation of human emotions and feelings and the incorporation of art forms like dancing and singing makes it even more beautiful in itself. That’s the power of movies.