“Why do you dance?”
Leap! is a story of dreams and heart, of overcoming failure, of finding the answers to the questions that matter most. It’s not unlike any number of films (I’ll refer to a few of them later), yet sometimes hearing a familiar story in a new setting can bring us joy.
Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) and Victor (Nat Wolff) live in a French orphanage, but the both have dreams of escape and fulfillment. For Félicie that means becoming a ballet dancer. The only thing she has from her mother is a music box with a tiny ballerina. It means the world to her. Victor pictures himself as a great inventor. He tinkers. He constantly keeps Félicie’s music box in repair. His main focus is on something that will allow them to fly. One night, the two sneak out and use Victor’s “chicken wings” to get away. They find their way to Paris, where Victor’s clumsiness leads to them being separated.
Félicie wanders the streets until she finds the Paris Opera, home of a great ballet school. A guard grabs her, but she is rescued by Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), the cleaning woman. Félicie follows Odette to her other job and eventually convinces her that she can be of help. There she meets Camille (Maddie Ziegler), who is waiting for news that she has been accepted into the ballet school. When the letter arrives, Félicie takes it to the school and assumes Camille’s identity. Félicie has no training and so is far behind the other dancers technically, but she wants to improve, and Odette (who is a former dancer) tutors her.
Meanwhile Victor has become something of an errand boy at the construction site for the Eiffel Tower. He sees this as having Gustav Eiffel as his mentor. Victor and Félicie continue to find each other in the evenings and their relationship has ups and downs.
Of course in time it will come down to Camille and Félicie as to who will win an important part in The Nutcracker. When Camille wins the role, Félicie’s spirit is broken and she is taken back to the orphanage. But in time she comes to believe in herself and she returns to confront Camille.
Watching the film, you can spot influences of the other ways this story has been told. One night when Victor takes Félicie out, she dances without abandon on the tables as in Fame. How could a redhaired orphan not remind us of Annie? Félicie’s training with Odette is reminiscent of Daniel and Miyagi in The Karate Kid. When we see the difference in training methods between Félicie and Camille it is not unlike Rocky. And the ultimate contest between Félicie and Camille is a dance version of the guitar contest between Eugene and Scratch from Crossroads. In the end, what gives the winner the advantage is the answer to the question, “Why do you dance?” the different answers from Camille and Félicie tell the whole story.
Why do you…? That of course is the question that we often struggle with in our lives. Do we do things to please others or ourselves? Do we have a passion or a duty? Are we resigned to our fate or will we break down the barriers that are holding us back?
I wonder how Christians answer such questions. Why do you …? Some would say, the Bible says this is how we must act. Others, this is what Jesus did. Let me venture an answer that I think would please God most: Because God’s love has awakened me to live in a way that shares that love with others. I don’t know if we ever quite attain that point, but it may be a great thing to practice for.
Photos courtesy of The Weinstein Company