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Shall We Dance?
Masayuki Suo
Starring: Koji Yakusho, Tamiyo Kusakari...
Release Date: 1999.

Length: 119 minutes
Rated: PG-13. Subtitles in English
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment

Quiet. Powerful. Charming. Sweet. With a masterful and light touch, this movie is a must for anyone feeling that life has lost its luster. It focuses on the unspoken desire of a middle-aged Japanese accountant, - he has a good job, a devoted wife and daughter, a house, and a sense that he has everything. Except that he is not happy. His life has taken on the empty qualities of too much work, too much routine, and too little appreciation.

On his train ride home from work each evening, he notices a young woman standing in the window of a dance studio, a woman who looks as sad as he seems. After a little time passes, he finds himself answering his inner desire to go to the dance studio, where he signs up for beginner dance lessons, hoping that the sad young woman will be his instructor. But another woman, a wonderful teacher, shows him his first steps and, over time, he is in love again…with dance.

He discovers the joy of using his body, of learning something new, of music and movement. He practices and practices, and becomes accomplished enough that eventually the young melancholy dance teacher (a master) takes him on as a student to help him prepare for competition. In that process, she also finds the luster that was missing from her life. When his wife discovers what he has been doing in his off hours, she is chagrined and embarrassed; but by then, he has found himself again, and is able to return to his family with more presence than he had been able to offer them when the film began. He is alive again!

While the focus in the film is on the accountant learning to dance, interesting characters abound, many of whom are looking for ways to belong and express themselves in a relatively bounded society. Soon, we find ourselves rooting for each of them, and their willingness to respond to a strong, inner call. In this movie, the accountant answers his desire to learn to dance and lets himself go as an eager and dedicated learner. How many of us keep our biggest dreams under wraps, never finding the courage to step into what we know is right and good for us?  How many times have we allowed ourselves to answer a wholesome desire? How many times have we denied our wholesome desire, and suffered as a result? As well, how often do we allow our body to express itself? Whether it is dance, or sports, or body work, we see the power of moving and of being in the body’s flow when we watch our accountant learn to waltz.

This movie showcases passion that transforms, passion that transcends cultural boundaries, passion that liberates a human soul. Learning to love life again is a wonderful gift to oneself, and “Shall We Dance” is a delightful story that encourages all of us to find ways to joyfully express ourselves and our existence.





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