Blended with respectful but playful nods to movie musical pizzazz, “Dance Challenge” is a peppy, invigorating showcase for genuinely impressive street dancing. Except for a finale that seems subdued, film is an enjoyable catalog of gravity-defying athletic prowess and visual wit slung onto the flimsy framework of a single mom being out of touch with what matters to her 18-year-old son. Choreographed, co-written, directed by and starring transplanted Spanish dance dynamo Blanca Li, this will prove a crowd-pleaser at fests. Distribs should also consider stenciling it onto their dance cards.
David (Benjamin Chaouat) and his interracial gang of break-dancing and hip-hopping buddies in Paris are intent on being finalists in a competition so they can confront their counterparts in N.Y. They devote enormous energy to practicing, which produces plenty of bouncy interludes in which talented kids hoof and hop on the Champs-Elysees, in front of the Eiffel Tower or in their infinitely less posh rehearsal space.
David’s mom, Elena (Li), who runs an ultra-chic clothing boutique, raised her son in an upscale Paris neighborhood. So, David gravitates, natch, to a down-and-out industrial debris and graffiti aesthetic. However, although these black, brown and yellow youths may look threatening, for the most part they’re well-mannered pussycats with their own version of a work ethic.
Li gives her young performers plentiful opportunities to shine in solos and group dances that seem keyed to elicit exclamations like “How do they do that?” Making the most of her 150 dancers, and especially Chaouat’s tirelessly tensile pretzel schtick, Li shows a feel for movement that extends to the use of the camera as well. With no songs, just music and dance, pic transcends categorization and makes for undemanding fun for all ages.
Subplot in which a smooth DJ (Marco Prince) romances long-celibate Elena doesn’t amount to much. However, other detours nicely bridge the gap between then and now in music and dance, especially a glimpse on TV of the agile Nicholas Brothers, who wow the younger set.