Last night, in need of a feel-good movie and desperately in the mood for some dance, I put on Gotta Dance. This documentary follows the evolution of the New Jersey Nets’ first seniors hip hop dance team, the NETsationals. It is amazing (and available on Netflix streaming)! Here’s why.
In a culture that highly values youth and normative beauty ideals, and in a profession (that is dance) that disregards those over a certain age, Gotta Dance argues that you can learn to dance and be sexy, fun, and generally badass at any age. As Audrey (a NETsationals dancer) says about turning 60: “Some people think it is all over; it’s not all over. Turning 60 is just the beginning.” After all, as many of the team members remind us, age is just a number. (And, as Deanna reminds viewers, 60 is definitely the new 50.) Everyone on the NETsationals team is over 60, and some team members are even in their 80s. Not everyone knows how to dance, but that doesn’t stop any of them.
Throughout the film, the cast (slash team) talks about aging, beauty, dance, and feeling valuable in a culture that is all about the young. Many feel like the team has given them the chance to show what they’re made of. When they’re performing in front of cheering crowds they feel inspired and valued and totally sexy. Audrey notes that the people she encounters on a daily basis are noticing a change her step: “Audrey you look great. Something’s going on Audrey. And it ain’t sex.” She laughs it off. Since it’s dance! And friends!
Throughout the course of the film, we see the women—and the one man on the team—form close relationships with each other. They go out to dinner and drinks and have pre-game fun times and get nervous together and they rely on each other. And through the team and the friendships they build there, the group gains confidence. This is especially true for Betty, who also goes by Betsy (Betty/Betsy).
Betty’s experience dancing and performing on the team allows her to break out of her shell and merge her two personalities: one whom she calls Betsy (the quiet and reserved kindergarten teacher), and the other she calls Betty (the sexy and risqué lady who loves her body and wants to just move all the time). Dancing gives Betty/Betsy confidence; she even brings hip hop into her kindergarten class during a hilarious and adorable lesson about how put-downs are bad. Midway through the film, Betty/Betsy, her teammates, and her daughter venture out shopping to give Betsy a makeover so she can be Betty fulltime. Mostly, the makeover just involves buying clothes that fit and feeling sexy. But the support of other women and the fun that they all have together during the requisite fashion montage is awesome.
After I saw Hope Springs, the new film starring both my and my mom’s much-beloved Meryl Streep, we talked about how awesome it was to see Streep and Tommy Lee Jones playing characters their own age, engaged in an age-appropriate romance. Streep’s character struggles with feeling like she is no longer sexy at sixty, and part of her story is recovering her sexiness and being reminded of her desirability at all ages. Gotta Dance follows a similar journey as the NETsationals rediscover their sexy, their confidence, and general awesomeness after 60. They even find new careers in dance, something they never dreamed possible at any age much less over 20. Films like these allow viewers like both me and my mom to imagine the fun and fantastic parts about getting older as they reflect back and celebrate youthfulness at any age.