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10/3/13

Ryan Steele is in Five Dances...and He's a Star! (Obviously)

I have great respect for dancers. "Theater performers" are at the bottom of the entertainment food chain as it is, but if you were to break down the community even further, dancers are often ignored. Admit it...you've enjoyed the fruits of their labor, and yet probably couldn't name every dancer in a show's ensemble.

Don't worry, I'm guilty as charged. And I write about theater, so what's my excuse? But there is a point to be made...dancers, Broadway dancers in this context, are hauling ass eight shows a week, some performing incredibly risky and career-threatening choreography, yet receive only a small portion of the recognition (and salary, I reckon) compared to the big-singing performers they are dancing behind.


Five Dances, opening in a limited release this weekend, is an answer to that by giving the awesome Ryan Steele a leading role. Following his character, Chip, a recent transplant from Kansas as he and four other dancers prepare for a showcase, the film radiates this passionate energy and authenticity that one would find in a documentary on modern dance.

Plot and story veer down melodrama road, so much so, the film should never leave the rehearsal room. But when the dancing is the focal point, it is hard to look away - it is simply gorgeous. I have no objections to the modern dance featured on shows like America's Next Best Dance Crew or the Step Up series (although a quick Google search would refer to their styles as "street dance"...I stand corrected? Or something?), but this is the "subtle" type of modern dance that TV/movie executives would probably deem too boring. But it's, like, not.

Jonah Bokaer's choreography does not default to illusions or crazy tricks here...it is all technique, fluidity and poise. In a film with very little spoken word (especially while rehearsing), the ensemble communicates everything through dance that they can't articulate vocally - and Alan Brown's framing of the dancers is very inviting in the sense that we want to know what is going on inside their heads.

Having said that, Ryan is the real draw here. Anyone who caught his Specs in Newsies or his stellar work in the ensemble of Matilda knows that his talents just can't be ignored. Five Dances is a great showcase for him - all child-like innocence while mugging for the camera (seriously, he gives some major story face) and a dancing machine in the studio. Also, he is very nice on the eyes, a relevant detail that will disappoint exactly zero persons.

Five Dances won't exactly set the world on fire, but it is exposure for the modern dance scene less traveled and it gives a talented ensemble member a leading role. In a date and time where the only dancers people know by name are on on Dancing with the Stars, it is nice to see a little film be all, "Eff Yeah Dancers" and give some identity to those less-known performing their hearts out.


Photo Credit: Peter Ross/Five Dances

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