He That Dances

Created by Toby Watts, The Pitch 2013

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He That Dances is a comedy about a frustrated father, his hopelessly uncoordinated son and their life-changing encounter with Yorkshire’s greatest flamenco dancer. After failing miserably to win the Highland Regional Talent Contest, 12-year-old Bailey Ellsworth and his ex-flamenco-dancing father, Bryan, almost run over a hitch-hiker on their drive back home. Inexplicably disguised head-to-toe with bandages, the stranger intrigues them with his insight into the tragic disappearance of Bryan’s former mentor, champion dancer Arthur Squires, many years ago. That night Bryan has a dream. He himself is tightly wound in bandages and is being tormented by negative voices from the past. Out of the darkness a man appears and dances with him, causing the bandages to unravel and swap over onto the man, freeing Bryan from his imprisoned state. Bryan wakes up realising who the bandaged stranger was – Arthur Squires – and discovers he can truly dance again, whilst Bailey fulfils his true dream of becoming a mechanic, fixing up a car so Arthur may leave once more. A quirky live-action comedy with a strong character arc, reinforced by a bold and eccentric visual style such as in Napoleon Dynamite, the film uniquely re-imagines and parodies the working-class social-realist genre.

Biblical Connection

Luke 24:13-35 is a black comedy about two very ‘blind’ men who encounter the remedy to their shattered hopes without realising it at the time. The film explores the same premise using a highly contrived visual style and symbolic approach to continuously emphasise the comedy value of ‘not recognising what is blatantly staring one in the face’. Bryan lives under a terrible cloud of despair after his hero Arthur Squires disappeared, just like the two travellers after losing their messiah in the biblical narrative. Arthur is a Christ-like figure who represents the only way to joy and fulfilment, or ‘God’s kingdom’, represented in the film, for Bryan, by dancing. The bandages are a comic device serving as both a metaphor for ‘blindness’ and a way of making Arthur clearly appear to be who we suspect he is by humourously fixing him into a very obvious dance-like posture. Arthur is wise and humbly omniscient, and also delightfully playful the way Jesus is in the narrative. The visual and poetic ‘dynamite’ scene in the film, as it were, is when Bryan’s bandages are transferred to Arthur in a dream, ultimately illustrating the full redeeming power of the Christ to substitute for one’s inadequacy.