Dance With Me

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Randa Haines

REVIEWED: 02-15-99

Think Dirty Dancing with a more passionate soundtrack and Strictly Ballroom with less smarts, and you get a dance-romance that's as captivating as it is cheesy. Set in Houston (an unlikely choice of cities for a romp like this), we met Rafael (Chayanne), who has just traveled from Cuba to find the man he believes to be his father. That happens to be an unwitting and very crusty John (Kris Kristofferson) who gives the handsome immigrant a job at his dance studio, the Excelsior. Before long, we meet a collection of cha cha-ing misfits (the most charming of whom is feisty Joan Plowright as Bea) and a former pro dancer turned instructor, Ruby (Vanessa L. Williams). Rafael tries to find the right moment to confront John about their relationship, but spends more time charming everyone with his good looks and boyish smile. After a shaky start, he and the beautiful Ruby hit it off, and by their second date he teaches her that dancing is more than just step counts and technique, it's about feeling the music. A nice club scene follows and the film plods on a little aimlessly before hitting its final mark. There is some fine dancing throughout the film (enough to make the audience sign up for mambo lessons), but unfortunately the climactic dance contest loses some much-needed steam. Williams and Chayanne share a wonderful chemistry on and off the dance floor and the supporting cast complements the simplistic but thoughtful screenplay. In all, an extremely competent take on Latin dancing with vibrant choreography and a charismatic cast.

--Mike Emery

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