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Kevin Holly
Kevin Holly

The Last Dance



As the film opens, we meet Sara (Julia Stiles), a morose high school girl on a train. Flashbacks fill us in. She was a promising dancer with an audition at Juilliard, but her mother was killed in an accident while driving to see her daughter dance. Now there's no money for school, Sara loses her comfortable suburban existence and goes to live with her father, Roy (Terry Kinney), a musician who lives in a gritty Chicago neighborhood. Roy is not unfriendly, but isn't the parent type.




The Last Dance



Sara is befriended by a girl named Chenille (Kerry Washington), who shows her how easy it is to get your bag stolen if you leave it unattended. In class, she notices Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), whose comments show he's smart. She's taken to a club on Friday night, dances with Derek (who turns out to be Chenille's brother) and starts to like him. Eventually it becomes a romance, but this is not your basic high school love story, and includes dialogue like, "We spend more time defending our relationship than actually having one." Derek's best friend is Malakai (Fredro Starr). They've been in trouble together, and Malakai once pulled him out of a situation that could have destroyed his life. Malakai is a petty thief and a gang member; Derek is on a different track (he's just won a scholarship to Georgetown), but loyalty tugs at him when Malakai wants him to come along as backup at a potentially fatal encounter. Derek's choice, and the way the episode ends, may surprise you.


Meanwhile, Derek and Sara dance together--not just at the club, but in a deserted building where he shows her an urban style of dance and learns of her passion for ballet. All of this is interesting because it is not simply presented as courtship, but as two young people seriously curious about dance. Their romance, when it develops, doesn't show that love is blind, but suggests that it sees very well indeed; the movie doesn't simple-mindedly applaud interracial relationships, and Sara gets bitterly criticized by Derek's sister Chenille: "You come and take one of the few decent men left after drugs, jail and drive-bys." That overstates the case; there are lots of decent men left, but we understand how she feels.


Pictured in one of his classic oversized tailoring looks, Jordan had no way of knowing then that brown hues would be a dominant Fall 2020 runway color. Currently, basic T-shirts, elastic waist shorts and quarter zip styles are seeing high SKU activity.


Determined to nail every step of her dance scenes, the then-19-year-old would beg off to remain fresh at rehearsal, but 20 years later, the FOMO is still strong, a feeling her costar did little to squash.


"We had a good time," Thomas admitted. "Julia and I would shoot 'til probably something like 7, 8 o'clock at night. I'd get back to my place and I'd be starving and exhausted and then I'd get the phone call from [dancer] Richmond [Talauega] or Fatima and they're like, 'Be downstairs in 20 minutes, we're going out.' It was like, 'Oh god, you've got to be kidding me.' But then once we got out there, it was just incredible."


Though none of them revolve signing on for the 2001 project, one she unwittingly auditioned for while filming 10 Things I Hate About You, her 40-second table dance at Bogey Lowenstein's party providing director Thomas Carter with enough material to convince him she could nail the role of aspiring Juilliard ballerina Sara. "I didn't know it was my audition," she joked, "but apparently it was."


"I was really kind of happy that we were able to sneak in bigger issues into what was otherwise a teen dance movie," Stiles explained. "This subject matter makes it edgier or different from your average dance movie. You still get the entertainment, but there's something bigger going on. And it opened my eyes to a lot of perspective that I had never really considered before, which I think is pretty cool."


"It was fun," Thomas acknowledged. "I mean, I don't know what was going on with you, Julia, but a bunch of those dancers were hanging out in my trailer with liquor and it was on and crackin' in my trailer."


"I remember one night in particularly where I was just like, 'Okay, fine. I'll take a drink,'" he recalled. "And then I went in and had to film and I was paranoid that I would, you know, be exposed as an unprofessional drunk. But it worked out. And I realized, I think that's what dancers do to loosen themselves up. So, looking back, I feel like I wasn't being unprofessional, I was just kind of trying to roll with the energy of the people that were trying to teach me."


"I'm not a dancer at all," he admitted. "And so I was anxious for the opportunity to not screw it up when it came to filming. So if they were going to come and teach me stuff, I was very eager for it because I was so afraid of looking like a complete dork."


Despite years of training, Stiles was equally hard on herself, fretting that ballet had never been a particular strong suit for her. "There's a thing with dancers, you'll never be good enough, you'll never get it right," she explained. "You're always constantly refining, which is why I could never watch the movie now, because I would be way too critical of my port de bras or whatever."


"I'm envisioning, like, me doing the Debbie Allen character in Fame, where now she's a dance teacher and she's smacking her cane against the ballet bar," Stiles joked. "And then, I don't know."


Each of the actors have a full slate. Stiles, having wrapped filming on season three of her dreamy Sundance Now drama Riviera mere days before the world shut down due to COVID, is currently based in camera assistant husband Preston J. Cook's native Canada, working on Esther. The "psychologically terrorizing" prequel to 2009's Orphan proved riveting enough for her to leave her cozy quarantine bubble with Cook and their 3-year-old son Strummer.


Given how little sex or sensuality there is in mainstream American cinema these days, it's no surprise that the Magic Mike movies have been so popular. The first Magic Mike, directed by Steven Soderbergh in 2012, was an irresistible showcase for Channing Tatum and his thong-and-dance routine, though it was also a sharp, realistic portrait of cash-strapped workers getting by in post-recession Florida. Three years later, the director Gregory Jacobs leaned into the erotic spectacle of it all with the exuberant Magic Mike XXL, placing women's desires front and center in a way that made even the first movie look staid.


Mike gives her what she asks for, starting with a lap dance and building to what looks like an elaborate home-gymnastics routine. (There's a funny bit beforehand where he tests out the furniture to make sure it can support the weight of his acrobatics.) The dance scene is gorgeous and hypnotic, and it whets your appetite for more. But then the movie takes a surprising turn. Max, impressed by the passion and artistry of Mike's dancing, asks him to come back to London with her. There, he'll take over as director of a play at the theater that she now owns as part of her separation agreement.


Soderbergh has always liked to subvert expectations, and here he seems bent on short-circuiting a lot of the pleasures we've come to expect from the Magic Mike movies. The dancing and the stripping feel tamer this time around. We don't really get to know the dancers as characters, and I missed the raunchy male camaraderie of Mike's old stripper buddies, played by actors like Matt Bomer and Joe Manganiello, who appear in just one brief scene. At the same time, there's something fitting about how muted and even melancholy this movie feels. As the title suggests, Magic Mike's Last Dance is about a guy bidding farewell to his calling and passing the baton to the next generation. Stripping was never his dream job, but it was good for him while it lasted, and also for us.


As the United States works to advance the global discussion on maintaining the safety and sustainability of space, it is important that policymakers recognize that retiring the ISS in 2030 is already influencing how state actors are finding new dance partners. 041b061a72


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