Colorful costumes and down-home charm conquer technical limitations in “I Want to Dance,” an ethnographic rough diamond about a Southern Chinese Miao girl who wants to represent her Guizhou village in a local dance competish. DV feature betrays the helmer’s background in Chinese tube docus, but this light-hearted glimpse at a Sino-ethnic minority is a joy. Pic is a natural for fests, but elsewhere its dance card will remain unfilled.
Despite a dance competition’s stated preference for tall willowy girls, stout 14-year-old Pian (Zhu Xiaopian) is adamant she should score an audition. The town leader sees to it that Pian can participate if she loses 11 pounds. The girl’s ambition creates problems for her family and fellow students as Pian drops out of school to pursue her dream. Ad hoc narrative means story details are sometimes confused, but amateur thesps are so enchanting no one will mind. Protag’s obstinate approach to dietary and exercise regimes make her a charming companion. Dance competish finale is a visual feast, though it lacks dynamism. Helming, which is preoccupied with small cultural details like weaving and mashing rice, is held together by tight editing.