“Danceland” is somewhat of a hard film to like. It borderlines between good footage of the American West through empty fields and rodeos, and one of those boring National Geographic videos that I was forced to sit through in high school. I don’t care about flaming balls of gas unless I can do it myself.
“Danceland” is split into three parts: “Nowhere”, “Somewhere” and “Everywhere” (easy to remember). In “Nowhere”, there are shots of empty fields, abandoned cars, as well as ramshackle buildings, while narration by what sounds like an uncaring high school student, tells the story of a hermit desperate to reclaim his past by rebuilding the schoolhouse from when he was a kid. A nice touch during this sequence is when the song, “Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft” is sung by a bunch of school children, actually the Wix Brown School of 1977. The song, which was also sung by Karen Carpenter, is perfect for the shots that accompany it of empty fields and rolling hills, as if to say to otherworldly beings outside our planet, “Come on in and set yourselves down. We’re certainly not using the lands.”
“Somewhere” takes us to a rodeo and the story of a wrestler named “Scrap Iron Gadaski” who’s so proud of his shape, muscles, and power that has weakened many opponents. He brags about being undefeated, and “crumpling up my opponents like napkins”. A doctor tells him that he has some sort of a disease, but being “Scrap Iron Gadaski”, he’s skeptical of that. He’s crushed other wrestlers and made his presence known in the wrestling universe. How could that happen to him? The rodeo footage shows bulls being kept in and then led out and that would have been the perfect time to begin the story, not a little later while showing the rodeo in progress, as well as grassy lands from up high. There’s a major problem in this sequence where piano music on the soundtrack overpowers the narration, partially drowning out the story of Gadaski. It’s somewhat hard to understand and that’s not good.
While “Nowhere” takes us through empty fields and abandoned cars, and “Somewhere” shows us a little more civilization, “Everywhere” takes us first to an Indian dance, where the footage could have been easily cut down. The costumes are colorful and the dance vaguely fascinating, but this was where I could feel the National Geographic Snooze kick in. There’s a juxtaposition with couples on a dance floor and a band playing, and thus begins the narrated story of the greatest dancer in the entire world. No dance move was too hard for this man and he impressed many, even a royal prince who handed over his title of “World’s Greatest Dancer” to this man as well as his ruby-encrusted dancing shoes.
While “Danceland” falters slightly from lack of tight editing, the stories revealed within the running time help do the film some justice.