Movie review: Flash Dance
Alex is a welder by day and she is a exotic dancer at night. As the movie opens, we come to understand that her dream is to become a classical dancer. As a kid, her Nana took her to ballet and her father taught her to see the music at classical music concerts. Now she is grown up and in a fork in the road of her life. Does she realize her dream or does she accept her position in life?
The film is filled with characters that have had their dreams crushed or have not realized their dream. Hanna wanted to be an ice skater, but that dream was crushed by one poor performance. Do you really only have one shot? Richy wants to be a stand-up comic, but will he realize his dream? He’s failed once before will he try again? Johnny never even had a dream.
Sometimes family or friends will get in the way. Their own crushed dreams will make them uninspiring, even without words. The blow can come in the form of a rolling of the eyes or just plain disinterest. Sometimes their own failures will cause them to conspire to make sure you don’t reach your dream. They might actively try to dissuade you to give up your dream. Some will want to see you put in your place (your place, of course, is no where near your dream). If you don’t resist their calls to remain were you are, then you will. What would have happened if Alex didn’t make Johnny let go of her in that alley?
In the end, the worst enemy of your realization of your dream is you. You’ll be afraid to bring your dream into focus and you won’t know what to strive for. Or you’ll know your dream, but you’ll be afraid to go after it. The hardest part will be to take the first step: to fill out the application, to lift the first weight, to take the test or to write the first line. Why did Alex leave the line to fill out the application to the ballet school? Seeing others fail before her needn’t have stopped her from taking that first step.
Some never take that first step and their dream fades away. Tina, another dancer at the club, doesn’t know why she didn’t grow beyond the night club. You could ask “why does this happen? Why do people lose sight of their dreams?” But the answer doesn’t matter. The most academic explanations involving Tina’s psychology or descriptions of her upbringing, will not change the fact that she never realized her dream. What really matters is that you don’t lose sight of your dreams.
Alex got some help, a “kick in the ass”, by Nick. He is her self-made, successful boss and owner of the steal factory. He has realized his dream and now he wants to see her realize hers. He nudged her into finally applying to the ballet school. Of course, luck plays its part and Nick, who happens to know the music conservatory director, makes a few phone calls to get her an audition.
The story in Flashdance is, at the same time, timeless and dated. Discovering and realizing your dreams is a classic story. For Alex, she was from humble beginnings and she had to break free from the boundaries of poverty. Her’s is the classic story of the American dream. Despite economic adversity, she worked hard and was passionate. She has no agenda and she pursued her passion for its own sake. With a little luck and determination, she made it to the audition.
Today, the story of the American dream has to be modified. Most people grow up with out the economic hardship that Alex had. For the average kid, everything is handed to them. They don’t have to struggle find the open door, many doors are open for them at birth. It’s easy to realize your dream, when you don’t have to strive for it, right?
Can the American dream be salvaged with such a lack of struggle?
Your dream, the American dream, is what defines your purpose in life. To have purpose is a struggle for everyone not just those in poverty. Where poverty denies you options, privilege saturates you with them. In poverty, the path you choose defines you. In privilege, you have to choose among your many options and you’re defined by what you chose and what you didn’t chose. In both poverty and privilege, your path is not set but it will appear to be. And in both you have to overcome the temptation to accept your standing in life and to discover your true ambition. From there, whatever your challenge, you need focus to become great.
Whether your obstacle is poverty, privilege or something else: “Take a deep breath and jump”. After that first step, what if you don’t make it? You will, I know you will.
Lyrics to the What a feeling.