Australian Screen

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Strictly Ballroom (1992)

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clip Triumph education content clip 2, 3

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

At the Pan Pacific championships, Doug Hastings (Barry Otto) starts a handclap in support of son Scott (Paul Mercurio) and his partner Fran (Tara Morice). Scott and Fran give a thrilling exhibition of their rule-breaking paso doble. The crowd goes wild.

Curator’s notes

This is the moment of truth in Strictly Ballroom. Scott and Fran have been disqualified by conservative judges after refusing  to dance by the rules. The stunned silence of the crowd is broken by Scott’s father, Doug. Until now he has been bullied by dance officials and dominated by his wife. He becomes the mouse who roars by standing alone in support of his son. His courage inspires Paul, who takes Fran on the dance of their lives. It is the validation of the new and the casting out of the old guard, as seen in the shot of Barry Fife falling over the trophy table. Scott’s former partner Liz restores her pride by reconnecting the power that had been cut when Scott and Fran had started dancing. Steve Mason’s kinetic, colour-drenched cinematography and Angus Strathie’s dazzling costumes are seen at their best in this sequence.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

In this clip Scott and Fran triumph over the rigid rules of the Australian Dancing Federation with their electrifying performance of the paso doble. Although disqualified by the judges for failing to dance ‘strictly ballroom’ steps, they are inspired by the emotional support provided by Scott’s father, Doug. His slow rhythmical handclap reverberates around the auditorium as an act of defiance, to which the audience responds. Scott and Fran resume their performance to the accompaniment of the audience’s clapping until the music is restored for the passionate finale.

Educational value points

  • Within the fairytale trope, or theme, established by Luhrmann, this clip shows the climactic moment of triumph experienced by Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice). Signalling a ‘happy ending’, this scene shows the couple beating the odds that were against them. Fran has emerged from being an ‘ugly duckling’ and is now Scott’s elegant and beautiful partner, and his equal. Together, they successfully demonstrate the power of authentic passion for dance.
  • This clip highlights the hyperstylised world of ballroom dancing as presented by Luhrmann. Gaudy costumes, heavy make-up and outrageous hairstyles separate the rule-governed competitors from the authentic form of dance heralded by Scott and Fran. The stiff and anxious demeanour of the judges and the artifice of their power are countered by Scott and Fran’s freedom and elegance as they feel and communicate the passion driving the dance.
  • The soundtrack in this clip is central to building the dramatic climax of the story. Scott and Fran’s creative risk is encouraged by the audience’s clapping, initiated by Scott’s father, Doug (Barry Otto). Doug’s clapping grows into the unified sound of clapping around the auditorium, which is momentarily hushed by Scott’s rhythmic footwork. The restoration of the musical accompaniment is stirring and energising to both the dancers and the audience, who break into wild applause.
  • The cinematography contributes to the moment of triumph. The constant camera movement builds the energy of the scene towards the dramatic climax. This is evident in the range of shots – the fast procession of the dancers, the slow sweep of Fran’s dress, the close-ups of Scott’s rhythmical feet, faces of family members and the judges, and pans of the enraptured audience. Adding to the excitement are the lighting, colour and costumes.
  • The dance performed by Scott and Fran in this clip is the paso doble, a competition dance that originated in Spain in the 1920s. The paso doble (double step) re-enacts a bullfight. The male dancer represents the bullfighter, and the female dancer the bullfighter’s red cape. The paso doble is danced to the rhythm of marching music, typical of the bullfighter’s procession into the ring. The dancers must create drama in their dance and employ proud, sharp and strong movements.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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