★★★★ | Five Dances

Alan Brown’s latest movie has one of the most accurate titles that pulls no punches and is exactly what it promises i.e five dances.

Held together by the strands of a wisp of a tenuous plot, it is however still a sweet and sensual coming-out-tale thanks to the presence of a charming young dancer who proves he is quite a mean actor too, despite his inexperience.

Four dancers and a choreographer are in a Manhattan studio learning a new piece of contemporary dance to perform at the opening night of a Festival. Amongst their number is naive 18 year old Chip who is fresh off the bus from Kansas having won a scholarship to study with the Joffry Ballet. The others assume that his parents back in the Midwest must be proud of him, but the reality is that his divorced alcoholic mother is about to be evicted so makes daily menacing phone calls to her only son.

Chip is homeless so when Cathy one of the other dancers discovers this, she takes pity on him and takes him home and lets him sleep on his couch. Theo another of the quartet takes another type of interest in the newbie and late one night makes a pass at him. A totally confused (and virginal) Chip runs off but not for long as next night he is back and this time encouraging Theo to go all the way.

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That’s essentially it in terms of plot, but this one after all is all about the dancing, and in particular young Chip learning how to really express himself through movement. The choreography by Jonah Bokaer is exhilarating and so beautifully photographed to accentuate every graceful move, and it’s capped by a sensuous soundtrack by singer/songwriter Scott Matthew.

Brown is quite the master at bringing every sinew of sexuality into stories of young love into his movies as he did so wonderfully well in ‘Private Romeo’. Here when Chip and Theo are making love it mirrors the dancing in terms of its intimacy and is sensuous rather than explicit. The whole cast dance like angels and young Ryan Steele as Chip maintains that purity and innocence when in the very sparse script he so cutely conveys his turmoil coming to terms with both his threatening mother and the fact that he now has his first ever boyfriend.

You don’t have to be a contemporary dance fan to love this one, but if you are, it does help.