Understanding nourishes belonging… a lack of understanding prevents it How does Strictly Ballroom represent this interpretation?
For an individual to belong in a world or to a group of people, they must sacrifice their individuality. If you clearly understand the true sense of belonging then you will belong without sacrificing your self- expression. But if you lack the understanding of true sense of belonging then you must live your life with many unnecessarily sacrifices. This concept is clearly demonstrated in a film called ‘Strictly Ballroom’ by Baz Lurhmann. In the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’ by Baz Lurhmann, to belong in a world of ballroom dancing, one must sacrifice their individuality. Those who hold power such as Barry Fife, the president of the dance federation resists and fears change. Those who don’t conform to the rules and regulations of the dance federation, do not belong in the strict nature of ballroom dancing. Baz Lurhmann successfully highlights the true sense of belonging through the use of music, dialogue, lighting, symbolism. The same concepts are seen in the related texts of ‘Caught In The Crowd’ which states “Understanding nourishes belonging and those who lack understanding prevents it” is effectively shown in ‘Strictly Ballroom’ as some characters portray this. In the opening scene, symbolism is portrayed when red curtains open up. This symbolises a world of performance. In this scene, we see the ballroom dancers dancing the traditional steps of the ‘Blue Danuble’ waltz. Scott and liz are dancing at the south warath dance championships. When Shirley Hastings calls out “Go number 100” to scott and liz, this conveys the audience that individuality is indeed sacrificed as if they were in prison. When scott results in dancing his own steps, we see a close up shot of Barry Fife’s face and says “Whats going on” to Les. At this point the audience realise that scott’s new way of dancing isn’t wanted by the president of the dance federation. Humour is evident within the film when the audience is laughing at the exaggerated shocked expressions of Shirley Hastings from the event where scott dances the non – federation steps in front of Barry Fife. The audience find it funny when she says “What did I do wrong… Did I fail him as a mother?”. This idea is further reinforced when Barry Fife says “You can dance any steps you light… It doesn’t mean you will win”. A close up shot of Barry Fifes mouth as he says “Win” shows how powerful he is. We learn that scott doesn’t belong to the world of ballroom dancing as scott and liz loses the south warath championships. We also see this in the song called “Caught in the crowd” by Kate Miller Heidke when people who are different are often left out. Individuality is not often accepted at high schools. The line “When the kids called him weird he didn’t try to deny it” suggests that people who lack the understanding of belonging, prevents it using colloquial and descriptive language. The world of ballroom dancing which is run by Barry Fife, resists and fears change as one must conform to these laws otherwise they will not belong. An example is Doug Hastings, he decided to dance his own steps but wasn’t wanted by anyone. The fact that Barry Fife resists and fears change is further reinforced when Barry Fife says “There are no new steps” when news reporters are questioning him. Liz holtz is furious with scott for losing the south warath dance championships and a close up shot of Liz’s face portrays to the audience that she is obsessed with ‘Dancing to win’ where scott doesn’t care about winning. Liz screams out to scott “I’m not going to dance with you alright… I’m not going to dance until you dance like your suppose to”. Liz lacks the understanding of belonging and she is blinded with only dancing to win. In the song ‘Caught in the crowd’ by Kate Miller Heidke, she turns her back on a friend who is in need of help just so she can belong “And I turned back and just walked away… Yeah I turned my back, and just walked away”. Repetition and First Person is used to demonstrate the sacrifices she had to make to fit in. In the world of ballroom dancing, superficiality is shown when exaggerated costumes, makeup and hairstyles are used whereas in the Tolendo Milk Bar Scene, Fran’s family lives in a Spanish community with natural lighting in contrast to the scene where Barry Fife, Shirley and Doug are talking about scott in a dark room with red lighting which symbolises anger. This allows the audience to see the anger on Barry Fife’s face with a close of shot. Fran is an outsider within the world of ballroom dancing as it is further reinforced when a high camera angle is used on Fran while she is dancing with the kids in the dance studio scene. This suggests that she does not belong as kids do not belong in the world of ballroom dancing either. Fran understands the true sense of belonging with her family as she doesn’t sacrifice her individuality. When scott asks wayne “Did you like the way I danced” he reply’s with “I don’t know, you didn’t win… did you?”. This conveys us that his friend doesn’t card how he danced but only cares if he won which means he sacrificed his individuality in order to belong. When scott doesn’t receive a satisfying answer, he leaves with an upset attitude. In Fran’s Spanish community, outsiders such as scott is accepted. When scott dances the Paso Doble, Rico laughs at him so much that scott yells “What are you laughing at” and Rico stands up and starts dancing the Paso Doble, showing scott how it’s done. Scott isn’t used to people laughing at him because he is known for one of the best ballroom dancers. This scene has a medium shot which shows us that the Spanish culture dancing ‘Paso Doble’ is not just a dance but it’s special. Through his interaction with Fran’s family, scott learns that there is things he must still learn from Fran’s family. Rico teaches scott the Paso Doble and Yaya teaches Scott that he must dance from the heart. This is further reinforced when Yaya is tapping the rhythm of the dance on scotts chest so he can learn to dance from the heart. As scott dances the Paso Doble with his heart, we see he spinning around and celebrating his new found freedom which is effectively shown with a high angle shot. When Scott and Fran goes to the Pan Pacifics to dance the Paso Doble, Barry Fife disqualifies scott and fran. But scott and fran decides not to leave and starts to dance when Doug comes walking out of a crowd clapping a rhythm to get him to dance. The Jacket scott wears suggests that he truly belongs in the world of Spanish cultural dancing. At the end of the movie, a long shot is used to show us the integration of people who didn’t belong to the same world but now do because scott and fran, showed Shirley, Les and Barry Fife that individuality shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to belong. Both Scott and Fran helped others understand that the true sense of belonging is not built on sacrifices but with individuality. In conclusion, the world of ballroom dancing is a world where one must conform to the rules and sacrifice their individuality in order to belong. The concept “Understanding nourishes belonging and those who lack understanding prevents it” is effectively highlighted throughout the film ‘Strictly Ballroom’ by Baz Lurhmann. We see that Barry Fife who lacks the understanding of belonging prevents it from happening by applying strict rules which mean sacrificing your individuality in order to belong.