Dance on Film
20th April, 2017
Dance and cinema have a long history together, particularly in the early days of film, when silent movies demanded an expressive performance that didn't rely on dialogue.
This film list brings together classic dance films that are renowned for their influence on cinema, as well as their technical brilliance, including many performances that were filmed in just one take and showcase the best footwork ever seen on the big screen. We also explore alternative forms of dance in documentaries that put the spotlight on emerging dance styles and subcultures; become absorbed by dramas that reveal the pressures of performance; and experience the redeeming power of self expression and movement.
To further explore the relationship between film and dance, we've also created a brand new Spotlight on Dance resource, which is for AQA GCSE and A level Dance/Expressive Arts students. The Student Pack contained within has been designed to support students to prepare, plan and record their final presentation, and for A level students to engage in critical analysis and appreciation of the Set Work. The guide provides easy-to-use planning tools and suggested stimulus film content to inspire and enable students to fulfil the specification requirements.
Ballerina U (5+)
In 1879 Paris, an orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina takes on the identity of another in order to enrol at a prestigious ballet school.
Félicie can’t wait to escape her rural orphanage to experience the cultural delights of Paris. Tricking her way into the Opera Ballet where the strictly disciplined moves are beyond her untrained feet, Félicie must work twice as hard and practice ballet every moment of the day to keep up with the others, and keep her dream alive.
All Stars U (7+)
Two plucky kids attempt to save their beloved youth club by staging an exciting and energetic street dance show!
Akai Osei, who got his break on the screen by winning a TV dance competition, stars in this feel-good British film about a group of young people who come together to save the youth club that gives them the space to dance – something they all have their personal reasons for needing.
Singin' in the Rain U (5+)
Widely considered the best musical ever made, this tribute to Hollywood is about an actress who can't sing trying to move into sound films.
Choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the film deals with the industry’s transition from silent to ‘talkies’, and its stars’ navigation of the studio system. Debbie Reynolds, who features as the behind-the-scenes talent who deserves a starring role was originally a gymnast, and received coaching from Fred Astaire to be able to dance on Gene Kelly’s level.
Happy Feet U (5+)
Tone-deaf Mumble is a brilliant dancer - but that's no good when Emperor penguins are supposed to find a mate by singing.
This film about celebrating our different talents features dancing sequences motion-captured from human dancers, who had to undergo penguin training in order to learn how to move their feet in that distinctive way. Tap dancer Savion Glover choreographed many of the film’s sequences, and provided the footwork for main character Mumble.
The Red Shoes U (11+)
This visually spectacular, dreamlike film from Powell and Pressburger is one of the great classics of British cinema.
Centred around a ballet production of Hans Christian Andersen’s traditional tale of the same name, the filmmakers made sure to cast dancers with some experience of acting, rather than the other way around. The form is celebrated in an incredible and influential sequence telling the tragic story that so involves those that perform it. Choreographed by Robert Helpmann.
Desert Dancer 15 (14+)
Based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian who defied authorities to start a dance company, despite the national ban on dancing throughout Iran.
Choreographed by Akram Khan and based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian, this film reveals the story of a young, self-taught dancer in Iran who was inspired by classic dance videos of Gene Kelly and Michael Jackson to form his own dance troupe, whose performances had to be carried out in secrecy under threat of persecution.
Billy Elliot 15 (14+)
Set against the 1984 Miner's Strike, Billy Elliot is a boy torn between his unexpected love of ballet and the disintegration of his family.
Challenging class and gender stereotypes, this heartwarming film tells of a boy who rebels against conforming to the boxing ring like the rest of his lads, and who finds his true place in the ballet studio instead.
Black Swan 15 (16+)
Psychological horror from director Darren Aronofsky that follows a leading ballerina undergoing a dramatic and dark change in character.
The effect of pressure for perfection and performance anxiety is explored in this film that is influenced by The Red Shoes but takes the psychological trauma to new extremes. Choreographed by Benjamin Millepied.
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