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Gotta Dance

February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2009

gotta-dance-01I am now officially a sucker for old people documentaries.

Gotta Dance was billed as a film about a group of senior citizens who have taken up hip-hop dancing. But it really was so much more.

It starts out with a panning shot of a line of feet, just shuffling away, not moving fast and not remotely following a beat. My first note in my book says “They’re not coordinated AT ALL. I’m not sure about this.”

My next note says, “10 minutes in and I’m going to cry off all my mascara from laughing.”

The film follows around this group of senior citizens who try out for a new New Jersey Nets dance team. But as we follow these seniors around we also get to know about their lives, and that’s what I’ve always found so incredible and satisfying about these “old people” documentaries. Fanny is an 80 year old Filipino woman who lived in the jungle with her family for two years during the war. She’s maybe four feet tall and all skin and bones, but she loves to “Boogie Woogie”. 61 year old Betsy is a kindergarten teacher who was extremely introverted but likes to dance. So she renamed herself “Betty” and talks about Betty in the third person. “Betty wants it sexy,” she says as she complains about their loose fitting costumes. Betty also brought the theater house down as she demonstrated her “sexy pole dance” for the audience.

Next note: “15 minutes in – mascara all gone.”

GottaDancePhoto8fullWhile many of the seniors danced when they were younger, most had not even heard of hip-hop. But “when they started that music I was poppin, hippin, whatever!” says 60 year old Audrey. And that is exactly what they all did. Ranging in age from 60 to 83 years old, this team of twelve women and one lone man started training for their first dance routine to music they had never heard before. It was slow-going for the poor cheerleaders who had taken up this project, but they respectfully let the seniors know that they expected them to work as hard as possible to get the routine down.

Game day. All the seniors have to get their hair ready and make-up done. “I could be sexy,” says one senior, “but it takes a lot of work!! Transexuals, transvestites, why would they want to go through all this?” she complains. As the team walks through the back hallway to get to the arena they see an ambulance parked outside. “Is that for us because we’re seniors?” one of them asked.

GottaDancePhoto7fullAnd finally, it’s time. The team, dressed in bright red rain slickers, takes the arena floor and the opening to “Singing in the Rain” starts. They start shuffling around like old people do and the audience claps politely. But then… “Singing in the Rain” fades out. Jay-Z fades in. The rain coats are slung off. And the team of seniors start “poppin, hippin, whatever,” to CRAZZZZY feedback from the audience. The New Jersey audience is up on their feet screaming and hollering and dancing right along with them, and when the routine was finished the theater audience broke out in spontaneous applause too.

The film continues to follow them through their five month long “15 minutes of fame” and shows them dealing with their new-found celebrity. There are Nets audience interviews that show the respect this team achieved, and interviews with happy youth dancers who got to do a routine with the seniors at the last game. It was a really FUN film, and a really inspiring film. It’s difficult to imagine your own parents hip-hop dancing out there, but really it’s difficult to even imagine ourselves out there. This team of amateurs really earns the audience’s respect, and gives everyone proof that there really is life after 60. The theater audience wildly enjoyed it, and I found it an incredible movie to watch on the last day of the festival.

Now available on DVD… Watch it!!

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