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DVD Review – Five Dances

3 min read

An artsy film, Five Dances revolves around a small, but elite dance troupe in New York, which eighteen year old Chip (Ryan Steele) joins in the hopes of escaping the expectations of his Midwest home life. The narrative of this film relies little on dialogue and more on character body language and, of course, dance, with five sections of the film dedicated to impressive contemporary dance sequences choreographed by the internationally renowned, Jonah Bokaer to further convey story.

FiveDancesInsertJoining Chip in the troupe the other four characters of Five Dances – two American dancers, Katie and Cynthia (Katherine Miller and Kimiye Corwin), Australian Theo (Reed Luplau) with who Chip also dances with under the guidance of their English instructor, Anthony (Luke Murphy).

The majority of the film is shot within a downtown dance studio with occasional short sequences shot on the streets or someone’s house, and the fact that the audience come to acquaint themselves with these characters within such an intimate setting creates an intense spectator experience.

The plotline structure throughout the film is somewhat disjointed, caused by clumsy and under-explored character relations – Chip moves in with Cynthia (is unable to afford a place of his own) but never seems to move out? Katie has an affair with Anthony, whom it seems had taught her at some point in the past but other than their post-coital discussion and brief conflict in the studio this is all we hear of their story. Chip’s romance with Theo is also somewhat unexplained and unexpected in that half way through the film Theo’s sexuality is suddenly and unnecessarily unveiled only minutes prior to the announcement that he is to dance a duet with Chip, something that then leads to an abundance of groping and confused signals.

Despite Chip’s lack of character depth, suddenly he is questioning his sexuality, not in a way that signifies this sort of relationship had never crossed his mind, but in a manner suggestive of the idea that he had contemplated it but had yet to follow it though. Such a portrayal of these feelings is let down by the absence of any apparent character struggle or prior implications of such preferences.

However, it turns out that Chip does indeed hastily reciprocate Theo’s feelings and the two indulge in many candle lit dance practices and exercises, captured through the artful cinematography of Derek McKane.

The initiation and development of this relationship however took little more than a quarter of the film’s length, and although sweet and contemporary wasn’t quite worth the slow, almost non-existent build up. The inclusion of five intricate dance sequences although aesthetically striking and symbolically evoking also became a little boring and repetitive for those who don’t have an invested knowledge or interest in the world of contemporary dance.

It is also painfully obvious that the actors are all primarily dancers, their dancing skills far outweigh their acting skills, but it must be remembered that their former skill is the one that makes the film so visually arresting.

And so despite any deep character development and validation, Five Dances tells the rites of passage present in coming of age and indeed coming out stories and should be watched by those who want a subtly symbolic film filled with stunning dancing and a gentle tinge of romance.

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