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CAT DANCERS

By Don R. Lewis | March 14, 2007

2007 SXSW DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION FEATURE! Roy and Joy Holiday were the number one adagio dance team in the world in the 1960’s. By some strange turn of events at the height of their success, they were given a black leopard and soon turned from just a dance team to trainers of performing big cats. They started “Cat Dancers” which incorporated their dancing with the performance of tigers, leopards and other wild cats onstage and were a huge success. “Cat Dancers” chronicles the story of the Cat Dancers told through the point of view of Roy Holiday. Right off the bat you notice Joy isn’t around and Roy lives alone so the flag goes up in your mind. What happened to Joy?

Unfortunately the film leaves you sort of dying to know for far too long. Roy Holiday is a quirky and sort of sleazy guy. If there were a stereotype for people who do big shows with animals (ala Sigfried and Roy) Holiday would fit it. He wears big garish jewelry and has lots of white statues and fountains on his property. Plus his sexuality is all over the map. He clearly loves Joy more than anything but they soon add another person to their shows, Chuck Lizza, and things really get interesting for the Holidays. But once again, Chuck is not present for the interviews. Where’s Chuck and where’s Joy?

I don’t think “Cat Dancers” is a bad film, but I just couldn’t really get involved in the story. Roy Holiday seems like an interesting person, but he’s in virtually every scene of the film and I grew tired of him onscreen. I constantly found myself tuning out as he told stories and anecdotes strictly from his point of view. When you’re a narcissistic person like Holiday is, those stories are either laughable or boring, especially when you listen to them for over an hour. Maybe hearing them in real life is fun, but I could only take so many stories from a talking head spliced together with footage of the live acts with the animals. And again, where the heck are Joy and Chuck?

The film finally answers the question of where Roy’s partners are but it’s not until about the last fifteen minutes of the film. By then you kind of have figured it out so the payoff (if that’s what it was intended to be) falls flat. Even though I didn’t really like the film, the story of the Cat Dancer’s still might be of interest to people who love big cats or shows that feature animals. I’m not particularly a fan of them. But I also felt like the film kind of dragged on and I was left feeling like it was rather flat by the end

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