There is just something about a good documentary that can’t quite be replicated in works of fiction. Even when the stakes don’t seem especially high, the fact that we are watching real lives unfold really ratchets up the tension.
In Andy Milkis’ documentary “5…6…7…8” — about an elite dance company for girls — the events that take place might not seem to be overly important in the grand scheme of things, but for the young dancers, it can seem like life or death.
The movie follows the 41 girls in the Nova Jazz girls dance company during the 2007-08 season. The dancers, who range in ages from 10 to 18, are based out of The Pulse Performing Arts Studio in Bedford Hills, N.Y.
The Pulse Performing Arts Studio is run by Jenn Dell, a woman whom the dancers seem to both love and hate (it depends on the day). But it is clear they respect her and they both want and need her encouragement.
Dell choreographs a number of different dances for the girls, and, as you might expect, the dancers enjoy performing some dance numbers more than others. However, they don’t really seem to like to do the ones that challenge them — which is a problem for Dell since her job ultimately is to teach them to become better dancers.
A decision by Dell to institute a slower dance number based on the song “At Last” proves to be unpopular. Very unpopular. Many of the dancers aren’t adept at the dancing style and don’t seem especially keen to learn how to do it.
A performance of the song doesn’t go well and tension starts to mount between teacher and students. When Dell announces Nova Jazz has been selected to participate is a prestigious event, the news is met with blank looks. Understandably upset with this development, Dell has a private discussion with the captains in order to get to the heart of the problem.
None of the events of “5…6…7…8” are earth-shattering. The problems are definitely on a smaller-scale, but it is clear how important the dance company is to everyone involved. Milkis, making his feature directorial debut, does a good job of bringing the viewer into their lives.
There are no big revelations to be found in the film, but that isn’t really the point. The movie exists as an interesting backstage look at the world of dance.
Ultimately, “5…6…7…8” is a film that shows the best drama is often what happens behind the scenes.
The world premiere of “5…6…7…8” will take place at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park, N.J., on March 27 at 12:30 p.m. For additional screenings, go to www.5678-themovie.com.
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