Take the Lead

There have been plenty of movies made about the determined coach or teacher who pushes the disadvantaged kids to become more than anyone thought possible- including themselves. I usually enjoy this genre of cinema, with such notables as Lean On Me, and more recently Glory Road. However, these films are often centered around a sport, like football or basketball. When I heard that Take the Lead was based on ballroom dancing I was more than a little intrigued, and wasn't quite sure what to expect.

About the last thing that I associate with inner city New York City schools is ballroom dancing. After all, the waltz and rumba don't exactly mesh with gang culture in most folks minds. However, that is one of the points of the film, and the basis of the work of one persistent man who could see beyond the obvious perceptions and misperceptions.

Take the Lead showcases the efforts of Pierre Dulane, aptly played by Antonio Banderas. He is a dance instructor with his own studio. After witnessing destruction on the streets of NY, he decides to do something about it. The principal of the high school, overwhelmed with the ridiculously low standard test scores, and the violent deaths of some of her pupils, has no idea what to do with Dulane's enthusiasm and abilities. She assigns him to the basement detention of "the rejects" which consists of the most difficult and unruly of the student body. The intent was to scare him off, but needless to say, it doesn't quite go off that way.

Pierre Dulane is quite an enigma to his students. His manners are from a bygone era. His accent, speech and mannerisms are completely foreign to them. His ballroom dancing, on one level, is about the most useless thing to teach these students. Yet he connects with his students in a profound way. Through his dance instruction he tries to instill such basic values of respect, dignity, and leading & following. This all culminates with a city wide dance competition.

The soundtrack is also unique for the film. By combining American standard dance classics (like those of Gershwin) with a modern hip hop dance beat, we get kind of an "urban remix" version with a unique sound. Make sure your DVD player outputs to speakers with enough bass to fully enjoy it. These songs, while unique to listen to, also reinforce the cultural clash and interchange that is evolving throughout the film.

I really enjoyed Take the Lead and wholeheartedly suggest you check it out. If this whole affair seems too implausible, just realize that it is all based on a true story.

Overall Grade: A

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