Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Strictly Ballroom came out in 1992 and was instantly one of my favourite films. Not only did it feature fantastic dance scenes, but it also described my experience of the ballroom dance competitive world exactly as I had experienced it. I laughed at the tongue-in-cheek scenes because the reaction expressed in the film was exactly what I had seen played out at dance rehearsals and at competitions.

This Australian film has been described as a romantic comedy. It is a far cry from the Hollywood romantic comedies, though, because of the setting and the environment in which the romance is played out. The story centres on Scott Hastings (played by Paul Mercurio), an Australian ballroom dancer who wishes to develop his own sense of style in dancing – which leads him to dance steps that are not “strictly ballroom”. After losing a competition, his partner leaves him for another dancer leaving Scott to search for a new dance partner only weeks before the next Pan-Pacific competition. During his search, Scott begins to practice with Fran (played by Tara Morice): a beginner dancer learning at his parents’ studio . And so begins the journey in Scott’s development in dance, and in romance.

The trailer is a perfect synopsis for the story of this film:

In his journey towards his individual identity as a ballroom dancer, Scott needs to learn that dance it not merely a series of steps; but that good dancing comes from the heart. He first learns this when he visits Fran’s family and sees how the Paso Doble is danced with authenticity:

The final dance scene of the film takes place at the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. In this dance, Scott is dancing from the heart with an authenticity he had not previously shown:

Strictly Ballroom is also a romance. We are shown the blossoming of love between Scott and Fran in this tender dance scene:

One would not expect a film about ballroom dancing to do well. This film, directed and co-written by Baz Luhrmann, was however a huge success in Australia (grossing at AU$21 million)  and did well in the United States too (grossing at US$11 million). The film was accepted for the Cannes Film Festival; and was nominated for many awards. The awards received were:

  • The AFI Award for  Best Achievement in Costume Design, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Actor in Supporting Role (Barry Otto), Best Actress in Supporting Role (Pat Thomson), Best Director, Best Film, and Best Screenplay.
  • The Award of Youth from the Cannes Film Festival for Foreign Film.
  • The BAFTA Film Award for Best Costume Design, Best Original Film Score, and Best Production Design.
  • And the London Critics Circle Film Award for Newcomer of the Year (Baz Luhrmann).

Years later I still enjoy watching this film. I think the time has come for me to pull it out again and enjoy not only the numerous dance scenes, but also the romance and comedy. 

Did you see Strictly Ballroom? What were your thoughts?

(Join Jake every week for a theme for creative inspiration. This week’s prompt is Famous Movies.)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

23 thoughts on “Strictly Ballroom (1992)

  1. I’m with you, Colline. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I was fortunate enough to visit Australia in ’96. While in Cairns, I stayed at a hotel and my room had a small balcony. Not only did it give me a view of the ocean but I could also see into a dance hall situated on the 2nd floor of the building across the street. It was so “Strictly Ballroom,” with couples circling the floor, each and every movement performed in unison. I could — and did — watch them every night of my stay.

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    1. What a perfect view! I, too, would have watched those couples dancing “strictly ballroom”. Could only have enhanced the natural view of the ocean 🙂

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  2. I. Love. This movie. I saw it years ago and it shot to the top of my favorites right away. I knew I was in the right grad school program when, in our intro class, we had to analyze it for its portrayals of good and bad leadership. Right on! So it’s fun, dance-y, great music, adorable romance, over-the-top hilarious characters…AND you can teach with it? What’s not to like?

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    1. You are so right – and excellent film to teach with. There is so much it in to talk about – not only with themes and characters but also with regards to cinematography.

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  3. I really enjoy reading all your interesting posts. This one is very good. I haven’t seen the movie but when I get hold of the dvd I’ll sure watch it. I love these romantic movies

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    1. I think that is part of the reason why I love it so much – not the norm! And, as you say, good acting as well – which is unusual for a film centred on dance.

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  4. I loved that film, actually still do. It is so much fun. I remember when it first came out here everyone wanted to go and have ballroom dancing lessons. I went to see it with a friend who is, sadly, no longer with us. Still, I love the film. Apparently there is a quite a story that goes with the bolero jacket that he wears in the film. If I can find it I will see if I can you know.

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  5. i really loved this film to, the music is so gripping, so exciting and the story so fresh and tender, i have watched it more than once, so beautiful ..thanks for your post colline 🙂

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