The International Writers Magazine: UK Film
Street dancing is seen by many as a very new craze hitting the UK, thanks to the rise of acts on TV talent shows. In reality, it is a long-established art form which has come to prominence through popular programmes such as ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent and Sky’s Got To Dance.
Many of these reality stars make cameos in StreetDance 3D, which currently sits atop the UK box office. As negative as the perception of this kind of TV is, it cannot be denied that it has helped to put street dancing on the map in the UK, a just reward for the showmanship, expression and sheer hard graft that these performers put into their craft.
In terms of the script and acting on show, StreetDance should be terrible. TV writer Jane English provides little in the way of decent dialogue for the largely inexperienced cast to use, and BGT winner and professional dancer George Sampson is probably the best actor on show in the main cast (experienced heads such as The Office’s Patrick Baladi aside) This is to be expected, though, as most of the major parts are taken up by dancers rather than actors, and takes little away from the overall experience. This is just one reason why StreetDance should not be viewed as a typical film, we are not invited to engage with a story or believable characters, but rather to just sit back and enjoy some mesmerising ability from the dancers.
||Nichola Burley in the lead role is a confusing performer. She is a decent actress, with an open and expressive face and body language (one particular look of lust at a male ballet dancer is so perfectly judged as to give the actor a real ego), until she is given any dialogue, at which point she seems to struggle.
While this may be overly harsh due to the very limited script provided to her, we may be able to get a better view of her talents when Kicks comes out later this year, which should give her something to get her teeth into. One criticism of Burley which may be fairer is her limited ability when it comes to the actual dancing. Although she has herself confessed to having no prior experience before this film, it is a little jarring when she is hidden in the back row for the majority of arrangements, since her character is supposedly the choreographer and leader of the group. This, however, gives a platform to Lil Steph, a world champion hip hop dancer who despite not having any dialogue, puts in one of the best performances in the film. An incredibly talented B-girl, she is at the heart of many of the film’s best dance scenes, and a quick youtube search shows some amazing skill and balance from this relatively minor cast member.
The dance sequences are obviously what this kind of film lives or dies by, and some of the techniques on show here are incredible – even if you don’t know your popping from your locking, or thought that freezing was just a convenient and safe way to store food, then the intricate routines from the street crews are still a sight to behold. Add to this the grace and precision of the ballet dancers and it makes for an entertaining mix. As previously mentioned, the real stars of the show have little or no dialogue, and as spectacular as the street moves are, it is difficult not to be impressed at the sheer strength and agility of the ballet contingent. Particularly impressive are the two male dancers, a pair of formidable athletes who lift and throw the women almost effortlessly, and provide a little visual variety during some of the longer sequences, in particular the intense “battle” with rival crew The Surge (played by another BGT favourite, Flawless)
Rookie directors Max and Dania handle the action reasonably well, shooting much of the film like a music video, and never letting the camera get in the way of the action. Their occasionally choppy shooting style does include some longer takes which show some moments of genuine skill from the performers which do not need any flashy camerawork. That said, they are unable to resist the temptation of an occasional freeze-frame or slow motion, although they are generally well-judged and allow 3D to do what it does best, entertain the audience.
This film is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, and actually provides a great deal more to think about than the directors may have intended. Ever since Avatar, so many films have attempted to jump on the 3D bandwagon that it has lost both its novelty and its effectiveness. Some truly terrible films have bolted on 3D at the post production stage in a cynical attempt at boosting takings (mentioning no names, Clash of the Titans!) This has undermined 3D’s potential to add to the spectacle of cinema, and while it remains doubtful that 3D will ever oust regular film, those features which are shot specifically with the technology in mind tend to provide an immersive experience which is well worth the extra pound or two on the door. This is film as pure entertainment, with very little in the way of storytelling or character building, but rather using the medium for its potential to showcase a similarly spectacular art form.
That this film has taken top spot so convincingly away from Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, which boasts a budget reportedly 20 times the budget of StreetDance’s marks this as a moment for British independent cinema to be proud of, and is surely the high point of any lottery-funded film. Street Dancing is a charismatic and dynamic art form which is set to continue its recent rise in popularity, and this is testament to the passion and hard work put in by crews around the country. If an original story, believable characters and sharp dialogue is what you are looking for, you won’t find it here, but for an enjoyable and crowd-pleasing portrait of some very talented entertainers, then StreetDance is certainly worth investing 90 minutes in.
© Sam Faulkner June 15th 2010