Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Strictly Ballroom

So I'm starting to use this blog as a means for processing all the cultural input I receive - books, film, stories, websites, experiences. Part of the job of the preacher is to be the epic poet of his/her generation. I believe that I have to pay close attention to all that is around and filter it through a christian worldview, in hope that some of it may be used for building up the saints. i invite you to join me by giving your own thoughts/feedback/ideas. And thus, we begin.

This weekend, I picked up the film Strictly Ballroom for our usual Sunday Night viewing. This was a treasure of a film from 1992 that somehow I missed for the past decade. It's the charming story of competitive ballroom dancer Scott Hastings who wants to break out of the stale traditional steps that the Australian ballroom dancing federation requires of its participants. He loses his partner, but finds Fran, a seemingly clumsy wallflower who turns out to be a dance partner with soul and spirit.

I really liked this film, and for several reasons. First, it is mostly clean. A little innuendo and a few choice expletives -- but overall clean. It avoids having a titillating, but pointless, sex scene between Scott and Fran (unlike just about every other romantic comedy of the 80s 90s and 00s) -- and the movie is stronger for it -- it enables us to focus upon the story.

The film lampoon people who give themselves over to a subculture, but lose the sense of their first love. The "established" dance teachers and rulers of the ballroom dance federation are much more interested in control -- in having the next generation carry on their steps. Meanwhile, Scott simply wants to feel the music and abandon himself to dance. There is a wonderful scene where Frans father and grandmother teach scott the latin way to dance -- not just focusing on form, but also on feeling.

And therein lies the rub -- finding the artful balance of form and feeling. It would be a mistake to say that the film says that feeling is all important and form is pointless -- rather it says that form will only carry so far. All the technique in the world will not enable you to viscerally feel the music and abandon yourself to the dance. And that is what Scott must learn.

A good lesson for discipleship as well -- all the theology and self-discipline in the world will only take you so far -- it is only in an encounter with the Holy Spirit that we begin to dance in life. This does not mean that we abandon theology and self-discipline -- only that we don't make an idol out of it.

The other charming piece of the story is the ongoing refrain "A life lived in fear is a life half lived." If you've not seen it, I won't blow how this works out in the climax of the film -- but it is very true -- and again a powerful maxim for discipleship.

Key verse: "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (read in context -- dealing with the struggle of do Christians have to adopt all the jewish customs, or can they express Christianity in their own ethnic heritage -- this is not an anything goes statement)