Today, my love of dance is as strong as ever. Even my favorite movies are dance musicals: The Red Shoes (hauntingly unforgettable); An American in Paris (Gene Kelly at his balletic best); Singing in the Rain (more than Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse defined the perfect dance partner for me); West Side Story (George Chakiris and Rita Morena at their fiery best); All that Jazz (a Bob Fosse showcase); White Nights (with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines at the apex of their careers, ballet and tap dance never looked this good); Saturday Night Fever (John Travolta forever); Dirty Dancing (Patrick Swayze should've been a bigger star); Billy Elliot (ok, it's not a musical but it's all about one boy's overwhelming passion--with a capital P--for dance); Chicago (Catherine Zeta-Jones fulfills her potential); Hairspray (100 extra lbs of fake body fat can't hide Travolta's gift); and heck, even Flashdance (even though it took three people to body double for Jennifer Beals audition dance scene at the end of the movie).
I also like these movies--Dance with Me (where Vanessa Williams and Cheyenne are smoking hot); Save the Last Dance (Julia Stiles astonishes); Step Up 2: The Streets (the best street dance sequence ever); Shall We Dance (both American versions; I wish I also saw the Japanese version); Center Stage (yet another ballet drama), and Take the Lead (Antonio Banderas can do anything as far as I'm concerned). And who could forget the Academy Award-winning performance of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman where his blind character memorably and superbly dances the tango with a game Gabrielle Anwar (lucky girl!)? That scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Other recent dance movies that I regret not having yet seen are Strictly Ballroom and Mad Hot Ballroom. Those go into my bucket list.
Of course, television can't be far behind. When a cousin lent me his collection of Season 1 of So You Think You Can Dance, I was glued to the TV for hours--I was especially riveted by the joie de vivre of and chemistry between the Fil-Am contestant, Melody Lacayanga and best friend, Nick Lazzarini, who bagged runner-up and first place plums respectively. Head judge and executive producer (also of American Idol) Nigel Lythgoe extravagantly bestowed on Lacayanga the ultimate praise when he said, "You make me want to be a younger man." Heady stuff, indeed. Watching the show, which I think is the best program on TV today notwithstanding judge Mary Murphy's earthquake-causing screams, has now become a habit for seven seasons. Mr. Lythgoe, you are a genius.
Now comes Got to Dance UK and its US counterpart, Live to Dance. Before that was Dirty Dancing the reality TV show. And why is Dancing with the Stars nowhere to be seen on Philippine TV? I have to confess that I have not yet seen one episode of ABC5's Shall We Dance.
One of my fondest TV memories is watching the TV specials of Ann-Margret, who I would like to think is the precursor of Beyonce and Lady Gaga. A compleat performer, the Swedish bombshell knew how to shake her booty and make it appealing to young and old alike. (My mom loved this particular show). But at the top of my list of TV specials is Liza Minelli's Liza with a Z--it showed Minelli at her most commanding as a singer and and as a dancer, paying equal tribute to both aspects of her talent. Sadly, it was all downhill after New York, New York for this uber-talented performer. This powerhouse performer truly belonged in a different era, an era that celebrated the musicals and its stars like her mother, the legendary Judy Garland.
I mourn the what-could-have-beens had Hollywood given Richard Gere and Hugh Jackman the chance to dazzle in movie musicals. John Travolta's little dancing gems in Look Who's Talking and Pulp Fiction just makes me beg for more. It would've been a great, great shame had Chicago not come along for Zeta-Jones and Gere whose musical theatre backgrounds were crying out for that big musical spectacle. C'mon Hollywood, give these stars a stage again!
On a different stage are athletes whose grace and movement recalls a virtuoso dancer.
It is no accident that Roger Federer's greatest asset is his economy of movement, which at its most sublime, is described as being "an artist in full flight", a comparison to a dancer at his peak. It is instructive that fellow tennis supremo, Novak "The Djoker" Djokovic, in his much-loved impersonations, mimics a ballet dancer in impersonating Federer--it makes you laugh at first but then you marvel after at the homage because it is spot on.
For the most part, I now enjoy dance vicariously, but seeing it through the eyes of a photographer and an avid fan gives me an even greater pleasure. It seems that the human body was born to dance. Never is a man sexier than when he is dancing and never is a human body at its most beautiful and wondrous than when it is "in full flight", whether as a dancer transported by his passion or as an athlete who is distinctly blessed with the movement of a dancer non-pareil.
The following slideshows are our tributes to the Symmetry Dance Studio, a studio that nurtures our young talents and hopefully gives them the confidence through dance to pursue their dreams in whatever field they may later choose. Bravo Gus and Venus and all your wonderfully talented teachers!