Filmmakers Thank Their Lucky 'Dancing with the Stars'

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Movies featuring ballroom dancing have enjoyed moderate success at the box office, but can't touch the overwhelming popularity of their sexier, hipper cousins like "Dirty Dancing," "Save the Last Dance" and "You Got Served." That was before "Dancing with the Stars" became a nationwide sensation.

Filmmakers on the ballroom dancing-themed "Take the Lead" and "Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School" (both currently in theaters) are thankful that the reality show has helped make the activity the mad, hot thing right now.

"When we started, ballroom dancing was not hip and cool," says "Take the Lead" producer Diane Nabatoff.

"I think the stars align," adds co-producer Chris Godsick. "'Dancing with the Stars' came out of a format that developed out of the UK ... and we were fortunate that it was in its prime by the time this film was ready to come out. It literally was timing."

Naturally, the filmmakers hope that the show's popularity will translate into ticket sales.

"A few years ago dance movies probably wouldn't be the thing to go see," says "Marilyn Hotchkiss" writer/director Randall Miller. "And there's something charming about it now."

Ballroom dancing has appeared on television before, but usually only on public broadcasting stations and aimed at a niche audience already familiar with the intricacies.

"I had grown up watching some ballroom dancing and competitions every once in a while on TV," recalls Yaya DaCosta, who plays a reluctant waltz student in "Take the Lead." "It was always something really different and foreign."

That alienating sensibility has changed, thanks to the show's quickie tutorials, contemporary tunes, gaudy costumes and eager celebrities.

"These stars are very, very brave to do what they do in front of people," says real-life dance instructor Pierre Dulaine, whom actor Antonio Banderas portrays in "Take the Lead." "To do it live on TV and they only have four, five days to practice. How good can you get? It's very tough, but they have to give them show tactics to make it look incredible. It's not elegant. The pasties and all of that stuff? No, I'm sorry."

Despite being a purist, Dulaine, who started a program to teach dancing to public schoolkids, appreciates how the show brings people together.

"The wonderful thing about this show is that they have grandparents watching it, as well as the parents and the children, all watching at the one time," he says. "That is incredible. For that I'm very grateful to 'Dancing with the Stars.'"

Mary Steenburgen, who plays a dance instructor whose class is like therapy in "Marilyn Hotchkiss," agrees and hopes more people will learn to dance because of its physical, as well as emotional benefits.

"You do feel proud of yourself, and you do feel more beautiful and more handsome," says the actress. "It's a very cool thing to claim about yourself. Some people learn more quickly, some people may look a little more graceful, but as Jerry Rice proved on that show, if you want to do it and you go for it, you're going to do it."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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