in which Matthew Quick's novel brings my ballroom dance friends to the silver screen

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A few years ago, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto introduced me to Matthew Quick, a novelist whose The Silver Linings Playbook had recently been optioned for film.  Many books get optioned; far fewer films get made.  Far, far fewer films have director David Russell at the helm and Bradley Cooper, Julia Stiles, and Robert De Niro cast as leads.

The story is quirky, funny, and moving.  It also features a crazy dance contest, and since the movie was being filmed locally, local dancers were invited to audition as extras.

My friend and dance teacher, Jan Paulovich (DanceSport Academy), and his partner, Lana Roosiparg, were among those who showed up for opportunity.  They had, they say, no expectations, were simply hoping to have some fun.  One month later, they were on the set with De Niro and others—not just dancing, but acting.  They had been told two days of filming would be required.  In the end, their dancing—and their charisma—changed David Russell's plans for the dance scene...and required five on-set days for Jan and Lana.

A few weeks ago, Jan asked me to write this story for a local ballroom dance publication.  It gave me the excuse to get back in touch with Matthew Quick and to ask him how it has felt to watch his novel make its way to the silver screen (it will debut this November).  Here's an extract from the story:

Raised in a blue-collar neighborhood by stern—and conservative—Protestant parents, dance was never part of (Matthew's) world; indeed, he said in a recent interview, “the thought of any man or boy dancing—especially someone I knew personally—was absurd.”

Thus, when Matthew first conjured the dance scene in his novel about a man just released from a mental hospital and desperate to reconcile with his ex-wife, he was, in his words “going for laughs.”

“Pat (Peoples) dancing was my fish out of water,” says Matthew. “Lots of jokes were instantly born. The outfits Pat and Tiffany wear during the dance competition and Tiffany's choreography are equally bizarre and over-the-top. Hilarious, in a sad, quirky, and hopefully endearing way. But as I wrote the scenes I began to see that dancing was not only healthy for Pat but therapeutic. In many ways, the ridiculous way Pat felt while dancing—expressing his emotions through movement—was akin to the way I felt when I started writing seriously and telling people that I was a fiction writer. Mostly I imagined Pat and Tiffany as emotionally vulnerable--maybe for the first time--while dancing. Art saves!”

Dance, too, I keep learning, saves. And life is full of crazy, lovely collisions.


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