Dance Rivals Image

Dance Rivals

By Bradley Gibson | July 1, 2024

Director Nayip Ramos puts urban dance front and center in his debut feature film, Dance Rivals, a teen drama. High school star dancer Lex (Savannah Lee May) and her sister Kerri (Ava Whitworth) are uprooted from their home and school when their single mother, Rachel (Maria Canals-Barrera), moves them from Detroit to Los Angeles. Rachel is let go from her job, and the best new opportunity she can find is in L.A., far away. The sisters are both passionate about dance and have carved out promising paths as dancers, but they must all reset and build a new life in the new city and school. This is a traumatic move for all three of them, as they’ve never recovered from the girl’s father abandoning them when the kids were small.

At the new school, Lex is asked to teach dance for Kerri’s class, and she is also recruited into a dance troupe herself. She has a new love interest in a young man named Travis (Gunner Burkhardt), and everything seems to be off to a great start in their new life. However, there’s an existing queen of the local dance scene named Skyla (Laura Krystine), a classic “mean girl” who is also intent on dating Travis. Skyla is not happy that Lex is moving to the top of the dance scene and the top of Travis’ dance card. The social and dance war comes to a head at a competition that delivers the best dance-off since The Guardians of the Galaxy.

In a musical, as in an opera, the characters inhabit a universe where any emotion or turn of events can result in the sudden outburst of a singing performance number. Suddenly, there’s a song, a dance, some backup dancers, and possibly even a new set that frames the performance. Dance Rivals works the same way, except it takes place in a “dance” universe where the expression comes with a beat and rhythmic movement. As such, a large percentage of the film is taken up by dancing. A viewer who appreciates a blend of Jazz and Hip-Hop dance will enjoy the set pieces that punctuate the story of the film.

“…Lex is asked to teach dance for Kerri’s class, and she is also recruited into a dance troupe herself….”

From a cinematic perspective, Ramos, who is mainly known for commercials and videos, applies his experience and skill from those works to create a polished Indie film that is shot, lit, and recorded expertly. The soundtrack is an on-target blend of Hip-Hop and R&B. Since this is a family film, it’s all mild and acceptable for kids of any age. There’s nothing provocative in the music or the dancing.

The script is extremely simple, with a focus on music and movement over dialogue. The outline could be written in bullet points on one page of a PowerPoint presentation. The performances of the key cast are exactly what they need to be. Savannah Lee May, as Lex, carries the film with elegant dancing, and the other players support her in the dance numbers. Laura Krystine, as Skyla, provides a menacing, but not too frightening, antagonist for Lex to challenge. There is no violence and no language unsuitable for kids.

Kids and teens will enjoy the simple flow of Dance Rivals, along with the music and the movement. There’s nothing too upsetting in the events of the film, while it still touches on the difficulties of a single mother and her daughters trying to succeed in the world, despite the trauma of being abandoned.

Dance Rivals (2024)

Directed: Nayip Ramos

Written: Jimmy Summerall

Starring: Savannah Lee May, Maria Canals-Barrera, Laura Krystine, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Dance Rivals Image

"…the sisters are both passionate about dance, but must reset and build a new life in a new city"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon