There are more inspirational dancing films in Hollywood than you can shake a stick at. For one reason or another, the idea of a film where people use dancing to get through tough times is just one cliché that directors love to use over and over again. Don’t get me wrong—I love to dance, I just think that the films could be a little more original.
Last night I watched another dancing film, only this time it was via the Egyptian Film backlots, not Hollywood. The film, Ma Tigi Norqos, was a sort of cross between J.Lo’s Shall We Dance? and Antonio Banderas’ Take the Lead (or any other dance film, for that matter): it centered around a dance studio full of your atypical dancer types who are prepping up for a big public performance in none other than the City Stars Mall in Heliopolis. You’ve got the meathead-but-oddly-charming hottie dance instructor (Tamer Hagras) who everyone swoons over; the outlandish and brass female dance instructor with what appears to be purple ribbons (or hair dye) streaking her hair; two lumpy and cluelessly-dressed oddballs who just want to get with her; an officer-worker who can dance surprisingly well and a bunch of young hijab-wearing girls who get “down and dirty” in the r&b sessions.
The focus, however, is mostly on one older woman (actress Yousra) who looks not unlike some American mother. She wears glasses, arrives in her frumpy office clothes and is generally timid and clueless; however, she is not too timid, as even this non-Arabic speaker could figure out that she was bored with her life (and her inattentive, boring, strict husband) and had decided to take a leap and do something exciting. The catch is that neither her husband nor her teenage son know that she’s taking dance lessons, so she has to sneak around and hide, which eventually leads her husband to believe that she is having an affair.
If the film had been American, would I have liked it, despite the typical dance cliché? I would say yes: there were many comedic moments (American dance films are usually so much more serious, with the pep talks and you-can-do-it! Speeches) such as the scene where the crazy dance instructor gets poked in the derriere with a pole (the klutzy lumpy guys are balancing them on their shoulders as they dance) and the front-desk lady gives her a block off ice to sit on. (What I wouldn’t give to have known what they were saying in this scene!) Although our protagonist argues with her husband, there is none of the stereotypical “down-and-out” scenes where you feel like all is going to go to pot. Even when he catches her tangoing in her office with her fellow co-worker she’s not, like, locked in a closet or something. And even when she lives out her fantasy of tangoing with Mr. Macho Muscles Dance Instructor in private, there’s no hard feelings afterward.
Because the film is Egyptian, you tend to view it’s American storyline in a different light. I personally found the protagonist riveting: here she is, this older lady, going behind her husband’s back to dance. To the over-protective, stuffy Egyptian male of today, having your wife dance—especially to an intimate dance like the tango—with another man would be an absolute no-no. It would be unthinkable. But here she is, dancing with a man probably only a few years older than her teenage son, laughing conspiratorially with her unlikely bedfellows over this and that. The music is modern, the dance sexy, and although she wears a modest billowy leggings-pantsuit for her public performance at the City Stars Mall, the characters and film would not be out of place in a more Westernized setting.
Music, they say, is the international language. Other people say love is the international language; yet others say food or dance. I say, why not all four? No matter where you go, people are going to be eating, dancing, listening to music and, well, loving! No matter what country you find yourself in, the core of life will be the same; deep down, we all share the same aspirations and passions. If the abundance of dance films like Ma Tigy Naqros are any indication, let’s just dance through life together!