Saturday, April 1st, 2023

Dancing around volcano rims

Five Dances

Written and Directed by Alan Brown

Premiered February 1, 2013, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center
Drama (romance)
83 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

September 9, 2014.

Before turning to making films (the turgid Book of Love, the provocative boys’ school Private Romeo), Alan Brown wrote a novel, Audrey Hepburn’s Neck, which won the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize. There does not seem to be very much writing in Five Dances, the 2013 movie he is credited with writing as well as with directing It is almost entirely choreographing and rehearsing a ten-minute dance in a Soho mirrored studio (the subway stop is Canal Street). The movements were choreographed by Jonah Bokaer, photographed by Derek McKane.

It might have been titled “Five Dancers” instead of “Five Dances.” There are two other voices over cellphones, but we only see the choreographer who is also dancing in the number, two other male dancers, Chip [Ryan Steele] and Theo [Reed Luplau], and two female dancers.

Chip develops relationships of sorts with two of the others (one nonsexual, the other moving very tentatively) and the other two have sex one evening on the floor of the rehearsal space.

Ryan Steele (who had just appeared on Broadway as Baby John in a revival of West-Side Story) is the star of the dance (and of the movie), with a major solo (though Theo also rehearses that solo). I wouldn’t say there are more than wisps of backstories for any of the five, but Chip has phone-calls from a mother back in Kansas ordering him to return there. (Given how stripped-down his lifestyle is, it is surprising he has a cellphone!).

Chip is supposed to be a very innocent 18-year-old, but was born in 1990. At first, Chip seems almost autistic, but he definitely can dance and slowly thaws or emerges from his shell, though I still wonder what life was like for a fiercely focused ballet dancer in Kansas before he got a summer fellowship with the Joffrey, and stayed on having successfully auditioned for the dance by Anthony [Luke Murphy].

©2014, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.