‘Five Dances’ film tells a powerful story through choreography

fivedances

The cast of Five Dances.

 

Five Dances is nothing like what you might expect from an independent dance film.

The trailer tells next to nothing about what the film is really about and Five Dances explores so much more than just dance and a simple love story.

It is a minimalist film. The costumes are simple and the studio is pretty bare but the intricacies of the dance and the cinematography create a dynamic that is somewhat infectious. It discusses topics like sexual harassment, homelessness, and, to a large extent, growing up.

I had the pleasure of attending the world premiere screening of Five Dances which was  part of the Dance on Camera Film Festival with the Lincoln Center Film Society of New York hosted on Friday, Feb. 1. Tickets for the screening were sold out within the day and the demand was so high that it was moved to a bigger theater. So with all of the hype, there were a lot of high hopes for this film and every expectation was exceeded.

Five Dances was  created by Alan Brown who also wrote and directed Private Romeo, a military adaption of Romeo and Juliet that used actual text from the Shakespeare play and starring Broadway Veterans Seth Numrich (Golden Boy, War Horse) and Matt Doyle (Book of Mormon, War Horse, Spring Awakening).

Five Dances stars Ryan Steele (Newsies, Matilda) as Chip, an eighteen-year-old dancer who moves to the big city to find his big break.

The story is twisted into five segments and five different parts of a full number and takes place, for the most part, in a small studio in Soho, New York City.  The piece features five dancers (Ryan Steele, Reed Luplau, Catherine Miller, Kimiye Corwin, and Luke Murphy) and follows their successes and romances in the big city.

Chip is an extraordinarily talented dancer from Kansas who joins this company straight out of the Joffrey program. As a young person, he is catapulted into situations that make him feel uncomfortable, especially in pushing his own talents and in his romantic endeavors.

The film transports you from your seat in the audience and into Chip’s world.

You are transported into the studio as you are watching. You are talking to those people, and a lot of that comes from the dialogue. The lines are not just words but conversations that actual dancers would have with one another. (Coming from a dance background, I remember having these conversations.)

Five Dances is shot primarily using close-ups. It’s surprising that in the twelve days that it took to create the film, the cinematographer was kicked in the face only once or twice because of the incredible close-up shots of the dancers. There are shots where it genuinely feels like Reed Luplau might be kicking you in the face. It’s incredible and beautiful.

Reed Luplau (Theo) and Ryan Steele (Chip) share a tender moment through choreography.

Reed Luplau (Theo) and Ryan Steele (Chip) share a tender moment through choreography.

 

Everything in this film is woven together in the most incredible way. You get to see so much of Ryan Steele and his talents in this film that you didn’t get from his roles on stage. You see a lot of who he is as a dancer, actor and a person. There is a whole segment of the story that is based around Ryan’s tattoo, an insignificant detail on a Broadway stage, but obvious in a close up of his feet.

This small detail also leads into the romance between Theo and Chip.

The romance seems to start out raunchy and with harmful intentions, however turns out to be quite sweet and innocent. It’s a romance, sans some initial unwanted sexual advances, that everyone wants. It’s a relationship that everyone can relate to whether they have someone special or wish for it. You can see it in the choreography how these two men are able to develop their relationship through movement.

At its focus, dance, as you might expect is a big part of Five Dances so if you see Five Dances, expect to see a lot of modern dance. But the way the choreography and storyline are blended together add to the film’s depth.

Dance is another way of telling a story and that comes across in an understated yet clear way in Five Dances.

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