All the Right Moves

Rebecca Brown ’14

Rebecca Brown ’14 loves to dance. A cinema and media studies major from Brooklyn, New York, Brown is a member of Carleton’s Semaphore Repertory Dance Company and a director of Ebony II dance productions. So it’s not surprising that Brown focused her comps project on how filmmakers use—and modify—dance forms to contribute to a story.

Brown shares a memorable scene from each of the three films she studied:

Saturday Night Fever (1977): Tony (John Travolta), a man who escapes his boring workweek to become king of the disco on weekends, escorts Connie (Fran Drescher) onto the dance floor. “He pretty much leaves her in a corner and just dances by himself the whole time. Yet, disco was actually a feminist dance because women had the freedom to do their own moves and to take ownership—unlike in older, traditional dances where men lead and women follow. But this scene focuses instead on Tony and his story, rather than reflecting the egalitarian nature of disco dancing.”

Dirty Dancing (1987): The final dance sequence between the two main characters—sheltered daddy’s girl Baby (Jennifer Grey) and bad-boy dance instructor Johnny (Patrick Swayze)—starts onstage and moves out into the audience. “Baby leaves the stage to do the lift—her big move—on the floor. Why not do it on the stage where everyone could see it better? I think moving from the stage and into the audience signified that Baby wasn’t performing anymore—her confidence was part of her real life now.”

Step Up (2006): When Tyler (Channing Tatum), a boy from the ’hood, gets busted for vandalism and sentenced to perform community service at a school for the arts, he ends up dancing with rich girl Nora (Jenna Dewan) after her partner gets injured. The resulting performance blends Tyler’s loose and emotive moves with Nora’s disciplined precision, showcasing the fact that each character has learned to appreciate the other’s style. “The characters’ development throughout the film is summarized in a five-minute dance that makes you appreciate how much they’ve changed.”

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