Art/Film/PSIFF – The Dancer & King of the Dancehall

Fresh from the Palm Springs International Film Festival:danceTwo more movies with two intriguingly distinctive avant-garde dance styles and the ensuing competition that goes along with them. Because I wanted something artistic and upbeat as the festival draws to a close.

The dynamic energetic movies revolving around dance could not be more different from one another.  One resembling poetry in motion and the other raw & sexually charged.  Adversity is the only thing the main characters have in common and a drive to succeed.

I knew THE DANCER would if anything be visually stunning and I was correct.

Soko in

Soko in “The Dancer”

I loved it.  It was based on the true story of Loïe Fuller (perfectly played by French singer, songwriter, musician and actress Stéphanie Sokolinski, better known by her stage name “Soko”) an American dancer who became a sensation in Europe in the early 20th century-only to be swept aside just as quickly when a greater talent emerged on the scene. Don’t you hate when that happens? Said talent was Isadora Duncan whom you may have heard of as she became quite famous (gracefully played by Lily-Rose Depp in her first screen acting debut).  The story relates how Fuller went from living a difficult life with her father in the Midwest to ending up at the prestigious Paris Opera creating a dance that was unlike anything that was seen before. She became the toast of the town and a legend who helped almost by accident to create another living legend. A hauntingly striking film.

King of the Dancehall

kingofdancehall

In Jamaica they really do dance to a different beat.  I chose this movie because of the subject but also because I spent a lot of time all over Jamaica and part of that time was spent in Kingston where the film was shot.  It was written, directed and produced by Nick Cannon (host of America’s Got Talent) who was also the main star.  In other words a Nick Cannon production.  Cannon was at the screening and answered some questions at the end.

Shot in actual Jamaican outdoor dancehall venues, Cannon plays Tarzan (they all have nick names), a Brooklyn drug dealer fresh out of prison, whose mother (Whoopi Goldberg) is ill and unable to pay her medical bills. As he contemplates ways to make money he heads to Kingston where he contacts his cousin Toasta (Busta Rhymes) in the hopes of striking up a deal to export the island’s finest ganja (aka weed) back to his hometown.

The movie is in English with English subtitles that I assure you helps with understanding the dialogue because a lot of it is in Patois.  At least it’s authentic.

Toasta introduces Tarzan to the island’s nightclub scene with its vast network of fearsome gangstas, and his wife’s virginal (and sexy gyrating dancer of a sister) Maya whose suspicious bishop father (Lou Gossett Jr.) keeps her under a watchful eye.

Maya teaches Tarzan all the necessary moves so he is able to enter a contest in hopes of winning enough money to help out his mother.

What you need to know is that superstars like Beyoncé and Rihanna have used a lot of the original Jamaican dancehall moves in their shows and music videos.  The North American audience says “that’s a great move” while the Jamaican dance audience say  “she’s doing the (such and such…they all have names) move.”  In Jamaica, the dancers are celebrities in their own right, known all over the island as dance stars.

All my time in Jamaica I never visited a dancehall such as in this film, but I did go to a nightclub and in Negril the locals & others dance to live Reggae music at night on the beach.  This is where I witnessed very similar sexy dance moves as in the film. I had never seen dancing like that before….not here in North America!

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