Five Dances: Film Review

The gorgeous physicality is more impressive than the sketchy storyline of this dance-centric drama.

The interpersonal dynamics of a modern dance troupe are explored in Alan Brown's film largely set in a rehearsal studio.

The hard work and copious sweat that go into rehearsing a new dance piece is captured with visceral effect in Alan Brown’s sensitive drama set mostly within the confines of a Soho dance studio. Centering on a newly arrived 18-year-old Kansas innocent who discovers love, friendship and an awareness of his physical gifts, Five Dances should well impress dance aficionados even if its skimpy narrative proves less than inspired.

The title refers to a series of dance sequences (choreographed by Jonah Bokaer) being rehearsed in the small studio by five dancers, including Chip (Ryan Steele), whose withdrawn, taciturn demeanor hints at an inner turmoil that is occasionally revealed in anguished phone conversations with his mother who begs him to come home.

Having arrived in the big city via a scholarship, Chip is so broke that he secretly spends his nights sleeping at the studio. That is, until a female fellow dancer (Catherine Miller) takes pity on him and invites him to spend a few days in her apartment.

Chip’s sexuality is hinted at by his not coming on to his lissome roommate. When a male dancer, Theo (Reed Luplau), not so subtly reveals his romantic interest, Chip reacts with overt hostility. But eventually his barriers are broken down and the two embark on a torrid affair.

That’s about it in terms of the film’s storyline, except for such minor subplots as a married female dancer’s affair with the dance company’s captain coming to light in an ugly exchange. The film is more notable for the impressively filmed and edited dance sequences which also effectively convey the interpersonal dynamics within the group.

Despite such attempts to provide depth to Chip as having him occasionally demonstrate his comical gift for ventriloquism, the character largely remains a cipher. The feeling is only accentuated by Steele’s repressive performance which is not nearly as impressive as his athletic dancing. But then again, that’s appropriate for this film in which the characters express themselves far more vividly with their bodies than words.

Opened Oct. 4 (Paladin)

Cast: Ryan Steele, Reed Luplau, Catherine Miller, Kimiye Corwin, Luke Murphy

Director/screenwriter: Alan Brown

Producers: Alan Brown, Agathe David-Weill, Tracy Utley

Director of photography: David McKane

Editor: Jarrah Gurie

Costume designer: Jami Villars

Composer: Nicholas Wright

Not rated, 83 min.