Belonging is a perception and this sense of inclusion or exclusion is dynamic and depends on factors that either limit or enhance ones sense of belonging. A sense of belonging is closely linked to one s Identity and soul and so is an important human need. Belonging can also be oppressive when one is expected to sacrifice individuality at the expense of conforming. Belonging and Strictly Ballroom explore the tension between individuality and conformity, and emphasizes the idea that in order to truly belong one must belong to oneself. The article A matter of confidence by Stephanie Dowrick explores the soul destroying effects of alienation and exclusion. y People long to be together, to spend time with one another and to connect to other human beings. Sometimes this longing is so strong that it prevents us from exploring our own desires and from fulfilling our own dreams. Our need to belong can also force us to compromise our own values so that we can adhere to expected codes of behaviour. (So what do you do?) These issues of rebellion and belonging are poignantly explored in Baz Luhrmann s film Strictly Ballroom , an Australian classic that humorously pokes fun at the frivolous world of ballroom dancing to highlight the values of self-belief and self-will, and the difficulties of expressing these in an oppressive society. The article A matter of confidence by Stephanie Dowrick also explores the value of identity and self-expression and their effect on an individual s ability to truly belong in an environment.
Staged dancing/ers and heartfelt, cultural dancers/ing
TECHNIQUES: 1. Symbolism: Colour is used symbolically in the film to represent attitudes consistent with particular groups. The bright yellows, pinks and blues in the costumes of the ballroom dancers highlight the significance of appearing extraordinary. Many characters who occupy this world are united in their arrogance and pompous attitudes to others. The make-up on the women is bright and exaggerated, making them appear false and insincere. Fran is excluded from this world as she does not share this attitude, nor does she feel comfortable being insincere. This can be seen in the medium shot of her face covered in bright blue eye shadow and overly rose cheeks. However, the red, brown and grey colours at the Milk Bar are more earthy and sensual, representing the real spirit of dancing. According to the Spanish community, dancing comes from the passion of the heart and the soul. Fran s costume at the Pan Pacific Grand Prix is black and red, representing her passionate culture and her developed sense of self. - Symbols: Scott being pushed outside, over the garbage bins signals how unwelcome he is in this world. He is worthless. Not a champion. 2. Satire: Strictly Ballroom creates humour by satirizing aspects of the ballroom dancing worlds, showing the effects of restricting an individual s desire for self-expression and individuality. The film establishes itself as a fantasy through the fairytale motifs at the beginning of the film: the opening scene of silhouettes of ballroom dancers gliding to the famous waltz The blue Danube , and the movement of the glitzy and glamorous dancers in their brilliant costumes. The crosscutting to the interviews at the beginning of the film surprises the audience. The content of the interviews is satirized, demonstrating the exaggerated seriousness with which the characters approach their ballroom dancing. A tone of mock-tragedy is expressed through Shirley s lament, I kept asking myself Why? / did I fail him as a mother? which makes the audience laugh at her exaggeration. The scene in which Liz tells Scott that what she really wants is for Ken Railings to walk in and say Pam Short s broken both her legs and I want to dance with you is followed immediately by a crosscut to the car crash and than a crosscut back to Ken Railings entering the dance studio and repeating to Liz the exact words she had spoken a moment ago. The scene creates satirical tone due to the absurd nature of the action and comment. This is further highlighted by Kylie Hastings saying, That was unexpected . Even though we are not meant to take this seriously, the extreme nature of these characters reactions illustrates the difficulty for Scott and Fran to be accepted when they refuse to take part in the farce.
3. Juxtaposition: Juxtaposition is used in the film for comic effect and to illustrate the corrupted values of those in power in the dancing industry. These values isolate individuals and create a lack of belonging. In the scene where Tina Sparkles dances one last time with her partner, their glitzy, flashy, false emotion is juxtaposed with Fran and Scott dancing backstage. Fran and Scott s dance is sensual and passionate, representing real emotion and romance which we usually associate with the intimacy of ballroom dancing. The dancing style approved by the Federation also contrasts with Scott and Fran s dancing; most of the male dancers in the restrictive ballroom dancing world are sexually ambiguous, while the girls costumes are gaudy and their natural beauty masks by make-up. Barry Fife s video, Dance to Win , represents traditional forms of ballroom dancing and also highlights the commercial interests of those in power- another reason they so ferociously maintain traditional forms of dancing and resist the individuality of dancers such as Fran and Scott. Fran s emergence as an individual, and the developed sense of belonging she feels from dancing with Scott, is shown through changes in her costume and make-up. At first she is shown without make-up, wearing unflattering oversized T-shirts which hide her figure and sensuality as a woman. These images are juxtaposed with the glamour of the other female dancers. When Shirley makes her up in bright blue eye shadow, however, Fran seems out of place and it becomes apparent that she will never fit into the world of ballroom dancing. As Fran finds her own identity, her make-up becomes softer and more natural, and her clothes reveal her figure. At the end of the film, her true transformation to a graceful woman, confident in herself, is demonstrated through her stunning paso doble costume, which is juxtaposed with images of the gaudy outfits of the other female dancers. 4. Baz Luhrmann often uses close up shots of characters faces to represent the effects of insecurity, and the rebellion against those who deliberately exclude others. Close-ups of Shirley Hastings face illustrate her exaggerated manner and fear of the unknown. Her identity is so caught up in the ballroom dancing world that she fears losing her place. There is also the close-up shot of the looks of horror on the audiences face at the Waratah Championship dance, when Scott dances his own steps. The looks demonstrate the established order of those in power, and the strict rules that the dancers are expected to adhere to. Scott s dancing highlights individualism and the desire to break away from expectations of restrictive belonging. KEY SCENE: 1. Many scenes in Strictly Ballroom represent the ideas of the true spirit of love, family and belonging, in contrast to the false values and superficiality of belonging to the ballroom dancing world. One key scene is when Scott goes to the Milk Bar to ask Fran to dance with him at the Pan Pacific Grand Prix. Fran s father challenges Scott to dance the paso doble, and they move to the backyard where chairs are askew, streamers are falling down and colourful lanterns hang from the roof. The lighting is low key and the atmosphere romantic, warm and inviting. In this environment, Scott is ridiculed for not dancing from the heart. Close-ups of people laughing are juxtaposed with long shots of Fran and Scott dancing, showing that the onlookers are laughing at the way he dances. The medium shots between Scott and Rico accentuate Scott s humiliation and highlight his folly as he asks, What is so funny? Rico rises from his chair and begins to dance with deliberate steps and obvious passion. His movements are shown in a combination of medium and long shots intermingled with close-ups of his spinning feet. These shots are interjected with close-ups of Scott s softly lit face which shows his sense of enlightenment. Ya Ya (the grandmother) asks him where he feels the rhythm. The camera moves to a close up of his feet, making it apparent that his rigid training has affected his ability to feel the music. Close ups of Ya Ya tapping Scott s gut and chest, mimicking the rhythm of the heartbeat; illustrate a significant step towards Scott s shift from a false kind of belonging to one where he can express himself freely. This is followed by images of the revelers dancing in medium and long shots. Scott is seen twirling continuously as the camera pans up from his feet. Flecks of light shine on him as the train passes, while he spins around in complete abandonment, celebrating his liberation. Despite the simplicity of their life and material possessions, this scene shows that
Fran s community is motivated by genuine love and care, values we expect to embrace when we belong in a group.
Pressures associated with challenging the status quo and breaking free of rigid codes and conventions explored. Scott and Fran struggle to assert their independence within an inflexible context that adheres to pre-determined rules that cannot be broken with impunity. They are independently minded and do not fit in with their fellow dancers, wanting instead to assert their individuality and dance their own steps . Denouement: A re establishment of Doug and Shirley s marriage. Her accepting Doug s hand to dance with him is symbolic; it shows that she is accepting that he is taking the lead. Who dances with whom? A mix of crosscultures, it is symbolic of both groups (Spanish and dance federation) combining. Note: the use of humour e.g. How long have you been here? / Two years. Answer shows that they are speaking at cross purposes. They have not gelled. There is even a separation in their dialogue.
RELATED MATERIAL: 1. Article- A matter of confidence by Stephanie Dowrick Analogy Tallness is an advantage like confidence is an advantage. Shyness stultifies you, it s a habit, break it. Negative terms: looked at and no one . You can belong, by overcoming you shyness, by the use of positive verbs e.g. focusing, cultivating. 2. Photograph- Tourists at the Pyramids, Egypt 1963 : The notion of belonging is depicted in the photograph, by the inappropriate dress code of most of the tourists. They are dressed elaborately, the men in suits and the women in skirts. The clothing is unsuitable to the weather, indicated by the centre lady wearing gloves and stockings. Our eyes are drawn to the woman on the camel, because of her prominent position. She gives off an air of superiority because of her pursed lips and the judgmental and arrogant glint in her eyes. The positioning of her body; the straight back and the clutching of her purse, proves that she feels above everyone and would rather be someplace else. CONCLUSION: Making a decision to rebel against expected ways of being can have a significant emotional impact on an individual s sense of self. Strictly Ballroom and the *related material* successfully addresses the implications of rebellion and self-expression on an individual s ability to comfortably belong while maintaining identity.