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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 3, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Dancing with the stars of “Strictly Ballroom”

My favorite guilty pleasure these days, I’ll admit, is watching “Dancing with the Stars” on TV. I love how the show doesn’t take itself remotely seriously (first prize, for heaven’s sake, is a tacky disco-ball trophy), how the costumes seem to spring from the sewing room of a rainbow-hued insane asylum, and, most importantly, how the B-list celebrities of the show more often than not are transformed by dance. The documentary “Mad Hot Ballroom,” a few years back, captured the same kind of pleasure: how mere mortals, be they urban middle-schoolers or reality-TV starlets, find joy in moving to music. It’s remarkable to watch somebody, captured by the dance bug, slowly getting better at it; we can let ourselves dance with them, getting lost in the moment.
And I also love the show because it makes me think of “Strictly Ballroom,” Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 charmer of a comedy about the competitive world of Australian ballroom dancing. It’s over-the-top, but not by much, even considering that it features a character named Tina Sparkle. The clip below is a scene I love; in the way that it sweetly encompasses that old cliche of take-off-your-glasses-my-god-you’re-beautiful (note that Fran’s beauty here is in the way she moves, and in her gaze); the way Luhrmann places them in front of a ruby-red Coke sign and just below a line of laundry; and, most of all, the way the camera pans down to find Paul’s meek father, joyously dancing alone in a studio because he simply must.

I’m off to do an interview, then a screening, then calling it a week. Whether or not the weekend finds you dancing, I hope it’s a lovely one for all of you.

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