Strictly Ballroom Essay- Belonging

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  • Published : March 19, 2011
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English essay:
People have the longing to belong and to be accepted by a group or community. A sense of Belonging can emerge from the connections and acceptance we have with other people, communities and the larger world. These ideas of belonging are represented in texts which explore aspects of belonging and an individual’s potential to challenge or improve a community group. The film ‘Strictly Ballroom,’ directed by Baz Lurhman, the film ‘Looking for Alibrandi’ directed by Kate Woods and the exaggerated true story of an African American youth’s fight to belong in the song “dance with the devil” by immortal technique all represent ideas of belonging formed by life experiences. ‘Strictly ballroom’ is a comedic ‘mocumentary’ set in the highly competitive world of ballroom dancing where the stereotypical plot follows an attractive male lead dancer Scott Hastings. He finds love with an ‘ugly-duckling’ female partner who dances from the heart. Within the ballroom dancing world in order to belong, creativity and individual ideas need to be sacrificed. The power held in the ballroom dancing world is by those who value tradition and fight to stop individuals such as Scott Hastings from breaking away from the norms and long held standards of behaviour. Barry Fife is the president of the dancing federation and will resort to anything to make sure that the current status of the dancing federation remains and is not altered. In the first scene of the movie Scott is shown dancing in competition with his partner Liz. When he stumbles into a difficult situation he abruptly resorts to improvised “non-federation” dance moves, revealing the freedom of movement that Scott so greatly desires. The “flashy, crowd pleasing” steps shocks and disappoints Scott’s partner, Barry Fife the president, and his mother who dramatically states “did I fail him as a mother?” This dialogue is used to create satire and humour to show the audience just how seriously ballroom dancing is taken by these people. Their world is depicted as a fantasy world, shown through fairy tale motifs such as in the opening scene where the audience sees dancers slowly and swiftly gliding along the dance floor in their bright and glamorous costumes. The people in power within the dancing federation have corrupted values which isolate and take over the values of individuals creating a lack of belonging. Baz Lurhman uses juxtaposition as a main technique to show this. In the scene where Barry confronts Scott in the kitchen of the RSL Club, Barry attempts to sway Scott to follow the rules by telling him a dishonest version of Doug, Scott’s father and Shirley’s past. He makes Scott believe that Doug singlehandedly ruined his own and Shirley’s career when he started dancing his own alternative steps. The Scott and Barry relationship is juxtaposed against the relationship Scott has with his father, Doug. He is a reserved man who never seems to have the chance to speak; especially in situations that his wife is involved in. Doug is seen watching the film he took of Scott’s unorthodox dancing. It inspires his secret dancing which keeps alive his own desire for freedom and he ends up being the help through which Scott ultimately finds the strength to dance his ‘Paso doble’ and avoid his father’s “life lived in fear.” Another example, is the style of dancing encouraged and approved by the dancing federation being juxtaposed by the way Scott and Fran dance. The dancing of people such as Tina Sparkle and partner is flashy and displays false emotion. Backstage Scott and Fran are dancing passionately and represent real emotions and intimacy. In the beginning Fran is depicted as the ‘ugly duckling’, shown without make- up and wearing oversized clothing. This was shown in contrast with the other female dancers. When Fran starts exploring her own identity, her makeup becomes more natural and soft, she transforms into a graceful woman when she wears her paso doble costume and is juxtaposed...
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