Israeli filmmaker Dalit Kimor helmed this compelling documentary about a Tel Aviv ballroom dancing club for senior citizens – the majority are emigrants who, it seems, never truly assimilated into Israeli life.
The club offers a welcome refuge for its participants and the burdens of old age almost magically vanish when the music starts and the eponymous Ida (a one-time Russian singer) sings out Hebrew-language versions of Broadway show tunes. The film’s central focus is a “Dancing with the Stars”-style competition for the club’s participants, and the level of flash and footwork that they bring to the dance floor is wonderfully surprising.
Yet Kimor avoids falling into the trap of a feel-good film. The film offers a look into the harsh and often tragic lives of several elderly dancers – one woman has to care for her ill adult daughter, while another woman’s daughter refuses to visit her for the Rosh Hashanah holiday. The balance between reality and dancing becomes jarring, especially with the footage when several seniors watch from chair-bound infirmity while their upper torsos sway to the music that their legs and feet can no longer follow.
Strangely, the final competition doesn’t dominate the film – we only get to see the briefest glimpses of the dancers in their finest, plus some grumbling from a pair that did not make it into the top three finalist spots.
Nonetheless, this unsentimental film provides a jolting record of how the elderly manage to keep moving (literally and figuratively) through the final stretch of their lives.