One Last Dance (2003) is truly a dancer’s dance movie. I’m surprised I’d never heard of it, and would have loved to see it on the big screen. I came across it when I was searching for clips of Patrick Swayze’s movie dance oevre for a post about him.

One Last Dance is about three aging dancers who are reunited after the death of a brilliant but demanding choreographer who drove them apart. The company is putting together a tribute concert and Travis (Swayze), Chrissa (Lisa Niemi), and Max (ABT alum George De La Pena) are the only ones who have enough memory of one of the pieces to recreate it. To go through with it, they have to confront their painful past.

Gorgeous camera work captured the concert and studio dance experiences in long interrupted shots, from not only the traditional audience’s point of view, but also the dancer’s point of view from the wings, and the techies’ perch from above. Using the artistic license granted by the film medium, scenes easily flowed in and out of reality and not-quite-real surreal and dream sequences.

Objectively, outside of the dancing, the plot and the acting were nothing to scream about. However, for me, the dance was the acting. It was quite effectively used as a metaphor for the relationships and unspoken feelings of the characters. The main thing I took away from it was that life is not about the performance, it’s about composing the dance.

The film brought together choreographers Alonzo King, Dwight Rhoden, Doug Varone, and Patsy Swayze (Patrick’s mother), as well as the incredible talents of some top notch dancers. These include a younger Rasta Thomas, Desmond Richardson, and truly making this a family affair, Patrick’s sister Bambi Swayze (did I mention that on top of mom and sis’s involvement, co-star Lisa Niemi is Patrick’s wife, as well as the movie’s writer, director, and co-producer?). The DVD has a nice “behind the scenes” feature that talks about how the fictitious company in the film was created and how each choreographer worked with them.

Above all, this is a beautiful showcase for some of the eminent choreographers and dancers of our time. Ballet and modern dance lovers alike will find something to love.

Here is the breathtaking opening scene: