Strictly Ballroom Belonging

Belonging or not belonging is the feeling of being included or excluded by a certain group, person, place or community. This is conveyed very well in the film “strictly ballroom” produced by Baz Luhrmen and the picture book “The Sneetches” by Dr suess. In stictly ballroom, this concept is primarily conveyed by Scott Hastings struggle with the dance community to find where he truly belongs. In ‘The Sneetches is refers to the group belonging of the two seperate types of sneetches and their journey to belong as a community and individually.

In “Strictly Ballroom” the beginning scenes of the film Baz established the conventional, elegant atmosphere of the ballroom dancing world. Using a combination of techniques such as graceful music, the traditional “blue Danube”, the silhouette and highly illuminated shots of the dancers waltzing, dressing in exaggerated and ostentatious costumes, hair and make-up along with big cheesy smile and facial expressions as they dance gracefully around the floor.

However, the sense of community and belonging is soon fractured as it switches to a shot of Shirley screaming “Come on team 100!”. Scott and Liz become blocked in by another dance couple and Scott chooses to dance his own steps to escape, deviating from the usual steps that the judges are programmed to. The reaction of the judges and audience shows that Scott’s actions were not excepted by the federation. Barry fife leans over to Lez and mutters “what the hell is going on here?” representing the shock of the judges.

The restrictive and competitive nature of the “strictly ballroom” world is further shown by Barry Fife, the president of the dance federation who is conveyed as an ugly, evil man ruling the dance community. His irrational and controlling nature is emphasised in the scene of the first competition here we see there is no true loyalty or belonging because when Ken and Pam cheat and block out Scott and Liz in the corner they are rewarded and are still given first place. Clearly conveying that the individual or group who wishes to belong to this specific world must be prepared to follow orders and conform to their rules.

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To find a true sense of belonging within a set world, one must have the courage to stay true to themselves. The protagonists in this film Scott and Fran gradually challenge and redefine the order of this community. Scott “the up and coming star” of the ballroom world becomes frustrated with only dancing the old traditional steps and wants permission to introduce his own kind of steps.

In the illustrated story ‘The Sneetches’ illustrated and written by Dr. Suess he demonstrates individuals within a group desperately seeking approval of another group they are made to believe are more elite.

Not belonging may not be a permanent state. Doug, Scott’s father is portrayed as a very quiet charter who rarely speaks. He is often seen in the dance studio improvising his movements, which is similar to what Scott did earlier on in the film. However he is often captured through a high angle shot and very limited lighting making it appear as though the audience is secretly overlooking his dancing which no one is meant to see. This image suggests that he too wants to express his passion through dance, but he can only do it in the dark alone as if he is too afraid of confronting those who oppose it. The darkness around Doug lets him express himself as an individual and shed his previous conformed life. This is clearly conveying the main idea, that it is very important to belong but only if an individual can first belong to oneself.

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