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Dance with Me Reviews

STRICTLY BALLROOM + a Latin beat -- that very Australian sense of the grotesque + a pair of extraordinarily attractive leads = a glossy, kinetic love story that embraces all the conventions of the "hey guys, let's represent our rinky-dink little dance studio at the international competition in Vegas" movie and makes them seem surprisingly fresh and vital. Run by taciturn John Burnett (Kris Kristofferson), the run-down Excelsior Dance Studio is second home to a disparate bunch of dance lovers. Beautiful, lonely Ruby (Vanessa L. Williams) -- once a professional ballroom dancer, now a single mother teaching the cha-cha to Texans with two left feet -- dreams of competing again and landing a better gig somewhere more cosmopolitan. Lively retiree Bea (Joan Plowright) stays young doing the cha-cha, and dedicated amateur Patricia (Jane Krakowski, of TV's Ally McBeal) is living out her childhood dreams of dancing. Enter dreamy Rafael (Chayanne), from Santiago de Cuba: Burnett once worked the cruise ship circuit with Rafael's late mother, a singer, and responds to the young man's letter asking for work in the U.S. with a friendly -- if somewhat impersonal -- helping hand. But Rafael hasn't told Burnett everything: He's also searching for the father who abandoned his pregnant mother. Rafael is a natural dancer of singular grace and sensuality; he takes his cues from the music. Ruby is a studied performer for whom it's all about counts and rehearsal: It doesn't take a weatherman to see which way this wind is blowing, but for every cliché embraced in its entirety, another is subverted just enough that you're pleasantly surprised. And the dancing is gorgeous: Rafael and Ruby's second trip to a Latin club really is a tour de force of tightly choreographed shimmies and spins that looks as sexy, exhilarating and spontaneous as can be.