Live your dreams, it’s not as hard as it may seem
Growing up in the ghetto sucks: it’s gritty, tough, and no one wants you to succeed. Especially if you want to do something stupid like learn to dance. These films all have one thing in common: they show us all how crappy the ghetto is and entertain us with the art of dance. The most important thing, we learn, is to never, ever give up on your dreams. This, of course, all leads to the big competition, which, of course, the main characters always rock. What’s not to love?
10. Honey (2003)
This movie about a young lady trying to make it big in the hip-hop dance world features all my favourite things: Jessica Alba, Shawn Desman, hot dance moves, and a villainous music video director who won’t take no for an answer. Not to mention cute Lil’ Romeo, who comes complete with cute little dance moves. Filmed in Toronto, you can try to pick out your favourite T-dot landmarks. Disclaimer: this movie really isn’t very good.
9. Take the Lead (2006)
The important part of Take the Lead, filmed in Toronto (note the role of Degrassi star Lauren Collins), is the crossover to the inner-city-kids-being-motivated-by-inspirational-teacher to really learn that they can get out of the ghetto if they just try really hard angle. In the tradition of Lean on Me and Dangerous Minds, Antonio Bandaras takes a group of wayward teens that everyone else has given up on and teaches them to dance. Will they make it to the big competition despite disapproving single moms on welfare and rich kids with an agenda? Here’s hoping.
8. You Got Served (2004)
Speaking of the big competition–the battle, the showcase, the Streets, the cotillion, whatever–the point is that, somehow, somewhere, the star of the movie always ends up surprising and dazzling the audience with his or her fresh new moves to the point where no one can deny that, despite all our differences–race, religion, gang colours–we’re all just part of the human race. The dancing human race. We’ve got to come together and, well, serve.
7. Stomp the Yard (2007)
Listen. There’s innovation and then there’s taking old dance moves and making them into bigger, better, hotter, more awesome, sicker dance moves. This tale of a fish out of water who finds love and dances for the memory of his dead brother makes my skin tingle. You can’t deny that you love it.
6. Flashdance (1983)
Question: What’s more inner city than a steel worker slash stripper? Answer: Not much. L Word star Jennifer Beals plays a young woman with a penchant for dance. Will she make it? This Oscar-winning film (okay, it was for music, but still) is an inner-city-kid-learning-to-dance classic. The iconic poster and dance scenes helped set standards for this genre. Go, Beals!
5. How She Move (2008)
Toronto represent! This movie debuted at Sundance and was so awesome that MTV Films bought it, removed all the references to Toronto, and, voila! How She Move. With another Shawn Desman cameo (see Honey), it was filmed in the mean streets of Toronto’s infamous Jane and Finch district. Shoutouts to Scarborough, another disadvantaged area in Toronto. This film scored well on RottenTomatoes.com and we happen to have a super duper about it in our video section. Check it, please.
4. Save the Last Dance (2001)
An integral part of a lot of these films is the struggle for rich kids and poor kids to get along. Fish out of water tales also work well. Throw some racial tension in and you’ve got yourself a movie. With a tagline like: “The only person you need to be is yourself” you can’t go wrong. And don’t forget the part where they dance somewhere “real” (like where the main character usually just goes to “think”). It also helps if one of the main characters has a dead parent and/or just a deadbeat one. Julia Stiles’s character has both.
3. Step Up 2 The Streets (2008)
Less political than its older stepsister, Step Up, this sequel goes above and beyond the original. With better writing, better dancing, and fewer instances of baggy pants, the characters are more true to the teen dance movie form. Step Up is a bit gritty and over-sentimental with its fake Boyz n the Hood take on things while Step Up 2 sticks to the story at hand: dancing is hard and the only way to gain respect is to win the big competition. Briana Evigan, whose only prior acting experience seems to be a Linkin Park video, is actually pretty good.
2. Fame (1980)
The original film about inner city kids learning to dance, this movie was a major hit. Best scene: when main character Coco gets her “big break.” With the first (and maybe last) believable impromptu dance session in a high school cafeteria, this is the real deal. This movie was so successful that it launched a TV series that ran for five years in the ’80s.
1. Rize (2005)
The only real “film” in this list, the documentary Rize is actually touching. The grittiness of the genre breaks out of photographer David LaChapelle’s music video background. The film opens with the statement, “This images in this film have not been sped up in any way” and for good reason–the krump taking place is too crazy to believe. Do yourself a favour and rent this baby, pronto.
Written by Nicolle Weeks