SUBJECTS — Dance; World/Australia;

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Talent; Families in Crisis;


AGE: 9+; MPAA Rating — PG for mild language and sensuality;

Comedy; 1992; 94 minutes; Color. Available from

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This hilarious comedy will inspire young people to develop their talents to the fullest, show the complex relationships that can develop in a family, and demonstrate the self-interest that can pervert institutions from their apparent purposes.

We can’t say enough good things about this film. How about: “It’s one of the ten best films ever made.” “It’s a film that can lead people to transform their lives.” “It has multiple layers of meaning. Each time you see it (and it’s entertaining on the 10th or the 20th viewing), you see can something new.” “Strictly Ballroom” is so powerful and engaging that it can transform lives by awakening an interest in dance in the most unlikely places. Entire families, ages eight to sixty love this film.

The plot revolves around Scott, 17 or 18 years of age, whose family helps run a ballroom dance studio in a working-class neighborhood in an Australian town. Scott’s mother was once a national ballroom dance champion and now teaches. Scott has also won awards for his dancing and everyone hopes that he will win the national championship this year. But on the way to the finals, several unexpected events occur….


Selected Awards: 1992 Australian Film Institute: Best Film, Best Director (Luhrmann), Best Supporting Actor (Otto), Best Supporting Actress (Thomsen), Best Writing, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, 1994 Golden Globe Award Nominations: Best Film-Musical Comedy.

Featured Actors: Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Bill Hunter, Pat Thompson, Barry Otto, Gia Carides, Peter Whitford, John Hannan, Sonia Kruger-Tayler, Kris McQuade, Pip Mushin, Leonie Page, Antonio Vargas, Armonia Benedito.

Director: Baz Luhrmann


In addition to the benefits described above, “Strictly Ballroom” will also introduce children to the world of competitive ballroom dancing and to flamenco. We know of one boy who discovered a strong interest in flamenco dancing by watching this film. Others have become fascinated with ballroom dancing.


Describe flamenco dance and its origins to your child. See the Helpful Background section. Show where Australia is on a map or globe and where Spain is. Immediately after the movie, or at odd times over the next week (for example at the dinner table or in the car on the way to school) bring up one of the Discussion Questions, starting with the Quick Discussion Question in the sidebar. Help your child with the answers.


Flamenco is a form of music and dance which is traditional to the gypsies of Andalusia, a province in Southern Spain. Intricate toe-heel clicking steps and a high, tense, relatively still upper body characterize flamenco danced by men. This is complemented by graceful body and hand movements of female flamenco dancers. The melody of the song and the movements of the dancers are improvised within a traditional framework. Flamenco is now usually performed with guitar accompaniment and castanets, although these have only been adopted in the last 100 years. There are serious and light flamenco dances. In the serious dances the performer seeks “duende,” to be transformed by the depth of the emotion.

Flamenco is currently enjoying a worldwide renaissance with increased popularity and innovative approaches to the classical forms of the dance.



Why did Shirley fear that she and Doug would not be able to earn a living if Doug’s “new steps” became popular? Or, asked another way: Why was it so important to Barry Fife and the Federation that there be no “new steps?”

Suggested Response:

The dance teachers who made up the Federation would not be experts in the “new steps” and their ability to earn a living would be threatened.


1. See Discussion Questions Suitable for Any Film.

No Suggest Response

2. Why didn’t Scott’s father dance in public anymore?

Suggested Response:

The shock of losing the competition due to his new steps made him put it aside. He couldn’t deal creatively with the loss and he had no fight left in him until he saw Scott trying to break out, just as he had.

3. What were the Spanish gypsies doing in Australia?

Suggested Response:

They emigrated to Australia looking for a better life.

4. Is competitive ballroom dancing a sport or an art form?

Suggested Response:

Different people will have different views of this, but at it highest level some would consider it a form of performance art.


Subjects Here.



1. What happened to this family as a result of the secret that no one talked about? What does this tell us about secrets in families?

Suggested Response:

Secrets in families fester and cause problems.


2. Flamenco is very different from ballroom dancing. If Scott has closed his mind to the beauty of flamenco, what would he have lost?

Suggested Response:

Not only would he have lost the beauty of that dance form but he would have lost his own ability to grow. Flamenco was more to Scott than just another form of dance it was what he brought to his ballroom dancing and demonstrated the fact that he could go beyond what his parents had given him and contribute something on his own. It was his way of growing up.

3. Should Scott have “put his trust in the Federation” as Les suggested?

Suggested Response:

No. That was a sure road to stagnation and despair.

4. If Scott had abandoned his new steps and conformed to the pressure from the Federation, what would have eventually happened to his interest in dance?

Suggested Response:

It would not have consumed him and it probably would have withered and died, as did his father’s interest in dancing. Maybe he could have danced the new steps on the rooftop with his father?

5. Did Scott’s character and his interest in dance most resemble his mother’s or his father’s?

Suggested Response:

Scott was innovative, like his father.


Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.


(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)

1. In this film, most of the characters thought that Fran, because of her inexperience, was not capable of being a partner for Scott. They were wrong. What does this tell you about how you should behave towards others?

Suggested Response:

Never underestimate their capacity and give them a chance to display their talent.



rumba, pan-Pacific, “bend your ear;” “a tick” (as in a tick of the clock, a short period of time); “for better or for worse.”


Shall We Dance recounts the experiences of a male Japanese office worker who becomes interested in ballroom dance.


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