Sunday, November 14, 2004


Yes, let's dance!

My girlfriend and I saw Shall We Dance? yesterday, and I would not be very surprised if it had been at least partially financed, in secret, by the Dance Teachers of America. Because our reaction as we walked out afterward, and I'm sure that of damn near everyone else who has seen it, was, "Let's take dance lessons!"

It's not a great movie, but it is hugely enjoyable, feel-good without being cloying, funny without being inane. And it genuinely conveys the thrilling joy of dance, a shared exhilaration that is hard to achieve or experience any other way. I'm giving nothing away here (you already know everything that happens in this movie, even if you've never heard of it before) when I say that the final shot, of Richard Gere's and Susan Sarandon's characters dancing together in their kitchen, is one of the happiest things you'll see this year. Corny and predictable as hell, but wonderfully satisfying all the same.

Shall We Dance? is based on a 1996 Japanese movie of the same name. I haven't seen the original (I plan to rent it soon), but I'm told it has more emotional power, in that people in Japan have a lot more than boredom to combat when they learn how to dance. In Japan, it's an act of nonconformity, almost rebellion; in America, it's just looking for a little spice. Still, when Richard Gere's John Clark rides up the escalator in a tux, carrying a single perfect red rose for Susan Sarandon's Beverly, that is the "money" shot. Every woman seeing it will swoon with romantic wishfulness and wistfulness. And when Jennifer Lopez's Paulina says of the rhumba, "You have to hold her as if the skin on her thigh is your reason for living," if you're not watching it in the Arctic, you'll start sweating.

I'm a terrible dancer, but I have loved dance my entire life. There is little more satisfying and enjoyable than watching a really well trained dancer. There is little that is more fun than dancing with a loved one, even if you're crap.

As for me and my girlfriend, we're looking for a place to take lessons together. I think we'll enjoy that immensely.

Shall we dance?
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