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Movie Review: Swing Kids

5 Feb

Dance is a form of movement. Not just the one made by the body to the rhythm of the music, but how people unite and become a strong unit to protect their society. It is a creative yet powerful way to rebel against those who fail to understand one’s ideals and belief. It’s inviting and moving.

Swing Kids is a movie about a group of kids, the “Swing Kids”, whose passion was dancing the Swing or Jitterbug. The Nazis tried to control their “dance parties” as they believe that through their music and dance, they are rebelling against Hitler and Nazism. Occasionally these kids got into fights with the brownshirts of the Hitler Youth brigades. This was in Nazi Germany during 1939.

The main plot of the movie is not really dancing but how it creates a powerful way of self expression and idealism. Instead of joining the Army, Peter, Thomas and the rest of their group used dance as a form of political outlet. Since during this period, Hitler was already proposing a holocaust against the Jews, the Swing Kids did not allow themselves to be pressured to join HJ, because they would rather do something that they are passionate about than embark themselves into a world where they know they will end up dead. But due to a bad timing of stealing a baker’s radio, Peter was forced to join HJ. Thomas, claiming he is Peter’s friend, joined HJ as well to give Peter his support. They were both enjoying the best of both worlds: HJ in the morning; being Swing Kids at night. Unfortunately, Thomas was brainwashed into the Nazi ideals and clouded his judgement. This cause the life of one of their friends. War was between the two friends and eventually, Peter had to resign himself to what he truly loves to do, dancing. At the end, he ended up being joined in the work group just because he stuck with his belief that he would rather be free than become a Nazi.

In the movie, it was shown that dancing was prohibited during the Hitler period because the Nazis believe that the music that was played during dance parties brings hidden message to the people who join. And since they don’t play German/Nazi music, they are threatened that their people will be turning against them. This clearly shows that dancing can be a very successful propaganda when dealing with political issues. Even the music that is being played affected the beliefs of the Nazis that’s why they would require the song played on the radio be a German song. This shows their nationalism.

Even if I got dizzy watching the actors dance in the film (due to fast and jerky movements. I’m a ballerina, I’m used to seeing fluid and graceful movements. Sorry. 😉 ), I was able to appreciate the beauty of the dances there. I admit that they aren’t my cup of tea and you will not see me dance the Jitterbug or even a swing that often but the movie somehow opened my mind to a new perspective in dance. One positive factor was that I got into the music (old songs are my favorite) so that added to the charisma of the film. 🙂

Swing Kids does not only show how people were able to come up with a way to rebel against the Nazis but it also showed how dance can be a strong and an effective way of communicating with people.

Lord of the Dance*

29 Nov

*Chapter 2 of Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement by Gerald Jonas

Dancing is not only present in the physical world, but also in the ethereal world.

In some cultures, the gods dance. For them, dancing is the way which their gods bestow their blessings. Since people believe that the basic vehicle of dance is the human body, they dedicate every ounce of their energy to become one with the spiritual realm.

These two cultures are what piqued my interest because their society made dance as the central role in expressing religious beliefs:

Shiva: Hindu Lord of the Dance

In India, there are different deities that Hindus worship. There is Shiva, the great Hindu god of creation and destruction. He is represented as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance. There are a lot of symbols found on Shiva’s cosmic dance (picture above) and every symbol signifies his power and blessings. Another Hindu god that is closely related to dance is Vishnu, who takes on human form to rescue the world when it is threatened.  His characteristic flute is particularly associated with dance because of the sensual devotional dance that creates music far beyond the subcontinent. Hindus believe that when the gods dance, it is not surprising that dance itself should be considered an offering to them. The Mahabharata is an epic that represents the rituals in the Indian culture.

This shows that the Indian culture is very rich in religious beliefs and people worship their gods through physical means. Since their culture has been following social norms throughout their history (caste system, etc), the people are very particular with their knowledge of the different gods and how to act upon their requests of blessings and abundance. They follow strict rules to preserve their norms and traditions.

South Africa: Zulu Dance Tradition

In Africa, people preserved and extended the religious practices of their ancestors. According to the author, their dances open direct channels of communication to the world of the gods and the ancestors. “Make a god within one’s body.” This idea captivates me because since we were made out of the likeness of God, our bodies are the instruments for worship. That feeling of “trance” can be achieved and when you’re in that state, your mind and soul can take you places.

These two cultures truly embody how the attitude towards the body are powerfully shaped by religious beliefs. Dance had become the center of worship and the people’s role is just to let the body move and show how much your faith is in your religion.