Visual Storytelling 13

Lesson 13 | Visual Storytelling Course


Lesson 13: Let’s Dance

Musicals are the embodiment of movement on the screen. From a retelling of Romeo and Juliet through urban dance in ‘West Side Story’ (1961) to the decadence of pre-war Berlin in ‘Cabaret’ (1972), these stories work well on screen because they are so visually compelling.

Our nostalgia for these kinds of movies can be seen in ‘La La Land’ (2016), ‘Greatest Showman’ (2017), and ‘Mama Mia Here We Go Again’ (2018).

Even more intimate dance movies like ‘Shall We Dance’ (2004) or movies that simply feature a dance sequence like ‘Scent Of A Woman’ (1992) can lift a plot and deepen characterisation.

These films explore the emotional, romantic, and physical relationship between the dancers.

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Maybe Some Dancing

 In my script ‘Oblivion & Maybe Some Dancing’, which is a coming of age story set in Joburg in the 1990s, two teenage boys ‘steal’ a car and go out for a night on the town.

Jamie and Tim, my characters, want to forget about being stuck in suburbia and having to study for their final high school exams – they just want to go to a club, dance… and have fun.

Of course, as writers we are not choreographers, so we cannot write a dance scene move by move. But we do understand our story and characters.

For example, perhaps your character is distracted by a rival during her dance routine. She slips and falls. Or your dancers are all wearing masks, which highlights a theme of deception. Maybe your character is going to reveal a new tattoo during a solo dance. These are the kinds of details you must add into the script.

We can also suggest a tone or energy for the dance (tango, hip hop, etc.) and even a setting that will inspire a choreographer to create a fantastic sequence in the filmed version.

Exercise 30:

Free write for 10 minutes on one these topics.

  1. Write about a character who can’t dance.
  2. Write about a couple learning to dance.
  3. Write about a character who won’t dance with a stranger at a party.
  4. Write about a grandparent dancing with a grandchild.
  5. Write about why (and how) you would create a ‘flash mob’ dance scene.

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