Flashy, crowd-pleasing steps

In preparation for So You Think You Can Dance Live this weekend (followed in three weeks by America’s Best Dance Crew Live — I’m not messing around), I’ve been watching dance movies.

From this point forward, all dance movies will be judged against Strictly Ballroom. Why is Strictly Ballroom the greatest dance movie ever? Hard to say. It doesn’t have the best dancing — only one of the stars has serious dance training, and he was a contemporary dancer, not a ballroom dancer. Nor does it have the best screenplay — there are at least five scenes in which Scott chases Fran through backstage corridors, after she runs away with hurt feelings. It doesn’t even have any famous people in it.

What it has going for it is Baz Luhrmann’s quirky direction, and leading man Paul Mercurio’s face. I swear, I could watch close-ups forever of him gazing dreamily, and dreamily conflicted, at Fran. It’s so romantic, and they only kiss, like, twice in the whole movie.

Stop me if this plot sounds familiar: ugly duckling rebels against strict father by dancing with dreamy guy who falls in love with her. Dirty Dancing, right? Except without all the icky abortion, gigolo and daddy’s little girl subplots. Plus, in Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey was still pretty cute in the beginning, whereas Strictly Ballroom’s Tara Morice is made to look like such a troll, you don’t even realize she’s the leading lady when the film starts.

Last night I watched Step Up. After thinking, “Hey, it’s that guy from Stop-Loss,” and “Oh, that’s the chick from Fab Five: The Texas Cheerleader Scandal(For real. I watched it on Lifetime a few weeks ago), I wasn’t so impressed. Here you have real dancers and a legit choreographer, but I wasn’t particularly moved by the dancing.

They just don’t have the same chemistry as Scott and Fran.