Making the Grades
Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles) has a problem. But it isn't as black and white as the culture shock of moving from small town suburbia to inner city Chicago may appear. Nor is it the diverse population she associates with at school, including Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a bright medical school applicant; Chenille (Kerry Washington), a friendly unwed teenaged mom; and the parole serving Malikia (Fredro Starr), who threatens Sara after she witnesses him forcefully reminding another female student of an overdue drug payment. It's not even the new living arrangements with her estranged father, necessitated by her mother's accidental death.
Sara's problem is she can't dance Hip-Hop--which becomes abundantly apparent when she accepts an invitation to Steppes, a "slamming" nightclub that her under-aged classmates attend with the aid of some falsified ID. Although her friends blame her racial background, the truth is Sara can dance, but her genre is ballet.
Derek, a natural talent with plenty of attitude and street smarts, offers to teach her the basics. Breaking into an abandoned warehouse to practice, the couple share dance moves, confidences, and eventually a sexual relationship (only bare backs and shoulders are shown). When Derek learns Sara once had aspirations to attend Juliard, but buried them with her mother, he encourages her to audition and adds a little Hip-Hop to her routine.
Yet, when Malikia demands Derek's former loyalty to avenge a drive-by shooting (two such scenes contain various gunshots and minimal blood), and Chenille accuses Sara of crossing into their world and stealing the best man it has to offer, it becomes obvious that people close to them have reservations about the budding romance.
While this violence (and a couple of other brawling depictions) are sure to be a concern, the biggest problem for parents will be the reason most young females are drawn to this movie: the dancing (which looks more like foreplay than a social activity). The ballet sequences are also sensual and performed in sheer leotards. Liberally salted with profanities, families may not bother to save this last dance.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Save The Last Dance.
Chenille’s character states, “You can’t help who you fall in love with.” Do you agree with her? Does this mean Chenille can do nothing about the dysfunctional relationship she has with her son’s father? Can your head be as important as your heart?
Derek’s character says, “Hip-Hop is as much about attitude as it is about dance.” What kind of attitude do you see portrayed in this style of dance and music?
Dance films were very popular during the 70’s and 80’s. This film and Center Stage seem to be attempts to revive the genre in the 2000’s.