Warm up some popcorn, dim the lights, and enjoy these two films bristling with the magic, humour, and energy of dancing.
In The Heights (2020)
In the hot Washington Heights streets various stories unfold: Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a local bodega owner, saves his money in the pursuit of his dream, a seaside bar in his native Dominican Republic; Nina (Leslie Grace, the bachata singer), an intelligent young woman considered to be “the one who made it out” of the neighbourhood returns from Stanford University with disappointing news for her parents, especially her controlling father; Benny (Corey Hawkins), Usnavi’s best friend, runs Nina’s father’s cab dispatch company while dreaming of opening his own business—Nina’s return home resurrects long-hidden feelings between the two; Vanessa (Melissa Barrera), who works at the local hairdresser, and for whom Usnavi harbours feelings, secretly wants to open a boutique fashion store in the Upper East Side; and, Sonny (Gregory Diaz), Usnavi’s seemingly lazy but ambitious cousin, will find out something about his place in the world that will change his future forever; and somewhere, in the Heights, someone is sitting on a $40,000 lottery ticket.
The plot looks complicated at first. But on the screen, with light, sound, singing, rapping, and dancing In The Heights is an energetic and intricate portrayal of life in migration, love, family, belonging, and pursuing one’s dreams set to music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, Encanto).
Tango Shalom (2021)
Also set in New York—what is it about that town and music?—this film casts a lighthearted comedy eye on the clashes between traditional, conservative values and the modern world.
When female tango dancer Viviana Nieves (Karina Smirnoff) asks Hasidic Rabbi Moshe Yehuda (Jos Laniado) to enter a televised dance competition, there is a good reason for doing so—Rabbi Moshe desperately needs the prize money to save his Hebrew school from bankruptcy and closure. There is, however, one complication: according to Orthodox Judaism, a married man like the Rabbi cannot touch a woman other than his wife—for a dance like tango, based on touch and sultriness, this problem seems insurmountable.
Tango Shalom follows Rabbi Moshe’s attempts to compete in the dance spectacle without compromising his moral beliefs, even as the bonds between him, his community, and his family are tested.