Gotta Dance opens with a scene of an energetic NBA game, with all the halftime mascot antics and acrobatic dance routines we’ve come to expect. But the New Jersey Nets are trying out something different this year. We see the feet of a group learning a dance routine, with the instructor telling them not to slap their butts because it’s a family show, and there’s one thing that makes this new hip-hop dance troupe different from any we’ve seen before: they are all over sixty years old.
We come to know the members of the team as they learn fairly complicated routines and tackle their insecurities being a dance group comprised of senior citizens. They’re not professional dancers; they are just people who love to dance, and want to share that love with each other and with audiences. It’s affirming to see people, who many would not expect to succeed at such an undertaking, tackle their insecurities and pull off the routine wonderfully. The sheer athleticism it takes to do the routines is really astonishing. As someone a fraction of most of these people’s ages, I doubt I could do the routines half as well. Plus, seeing someone’s grandma brush her shoulders off and raise the roof to Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got” is quite a sight.
But Gotta Dance isn’t just entertaining for the adorable factor. Betsy, stage name Betty, was already in a hip-hop dance class before joining the squad, and commends hip-hop as “for the masses.” She says she learned how to cut loose through the music and just dance. Betsy even brings hip-hop to a group of children in order to teach them about self-esteem and not putting each other down. Seeing old ladies teaching young kids hip-hop dance steps is cute, but it also says something about how we can use pop culture as a way to reach across generations and find common ground.
Even though, at first, the group members might prefer the cha-cha, they get pure joy out of letting go and just dancing. That joy is really infectious, and the confidence the members of the group, and even their teachers, gain through the experience is inspiring to see. As the elderly population in the United States steadily grows in number, Gotta Dance stands as a document of how this population is becoming involved in what’s thought of as youth culture. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling, something that’s rare in today's films.