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Waylon Foster
Waylon Foster

'Footloose' - Dancing In The Movies

A Texas town where teenaged dancing is banned is the setting for the latest remake in Hollywood's infatuation with the 1980's. Here's a look at Footloose, the new version of a favorite film from the middle of that decade."Public dancing is against the law if you're under 18 in Bomont.""You're kidding me. Dancing is against the law?"Ren McCormack has just moved from Boston to rural Bomont, Texas."Is that the new kid my mom introduced me to at church?""He sure is. He's cute.""You think everybody is cute.""I know, but I think he's cute."Julianne Hough in a scene from "Footloose"

'Footloose' - Dancing In The Movies

High school beauty Ariel is attracted to Ren. They both love to dance, but Bomont's city leaders made that illegal a few years earlier after several teens were killed in a car crash returning home from a party that included dancing."We cannot be missing from our children's lives. They are ours to protect."

The Footloose cast includes several newcomers with considerable dancing skill. Julianne Hough, a contender on the TV show "Dancing With The Stars," plays Ariel. Kevin Bacon played Ren in the 1984 version. The new film features stage, screen and music video performer Kenny Wormald. "Growing up dancing your whole life, you see these kind of movies and watch them over and over again because they are just strong memories as a kid and inspiring," Wormald says. "You look forward to seeing these kinds of films. To also get to recreate it and hopefully do with this what the original did for so many people, if I can affect just one or two kids to want to dance or do what they want to do, I think that's incredible." Still, Craig Brewer says he knew that longtime fans of the original might object to the remake. "People are saying 'you can't remake Footloose or 'they're going to ruin this classic,' and I can't help but be a little bit bitter about it. But primarily what I've learned is it's just arrogant for people my age to look at 13-year-olds and say the only way you can experience this is the way I did with Kevin Bacon," explains Brewer. "I understand where they are coming from, but really we need a new version of this movie for audiences."Footloose features a danceable soundtrack with current hits and updated versions of songs featured in the original.

Up until that point, Bacon had been known for movies such as "Friday the 13th" and "National Lampoon's Animal House," so this musical dance thing was something new for him, too. While it's hard to imagine seeing anyone else "cut loose" on the dance floor the way Bacon did back in 1984, the big question is, were all those smooth moves his?

The now-repealed Cabaret Law prohibited people from dancing in any room, place or space in New York City, that lacked a "cabaret license." This, Muchmore says, was problematic for quite a few reasons.

"That license is very difficult to obtain and was only possessed by about 100 bars and restaurants out of one 25,000 in New York," Muchmore says. The vagueness of the term "dancing" was also cause for concern, he adds. Is nodding your head considered dancing? Tapping your toes? Swaying from side to side?

"It's really understood and believed that [the Cabaret Law] was implemented in order to keep white people and black people from intermingling and dancing together in Harlem jazz bars," Sotirova told NPR.

Andrew Muchmore, a lawyer and owner of Muchmore's in New York City, was cited in 2015 for violating the city's Cabaret Law, prohibiting dancing without a license. The New York City council voted this week to repeal the 91-year old Cabaret Law. Courtesy of Andrew Muchmore hide caption

Originally, the law did not just target those who were dancing, but went after musicians as well. Licenses were also required for three or more musicians to play. The license requirement for musicians was done away with in 1988, but the dancing ban continued to be enforced.

Featuring a live band and a cast of 27 talented performers, Footloose the Musical is a fast-paced drama with fantastic dancing and unforgettable 80's anthems including 'Holding Out for a Hero', 'Let's Hear It for the Boy', 'Almost Paradise' and of course the title track 'Footloose'.

Footloose is based on a true story. In 1979 the small town of Elmore City, Oklahoma faced a community crisis. The seniors of Elmore High School wanted to plan a senior prom, but dances were against the law thanks to a not-forgotten ordinance from the late 1800s that forbade dancing within the city limits.

This tempest in a teapot that rocked the rural community rocked and rolled the rest of America too, when just five years later the smash hit movie Footloose, based on their story, set the nation dancing.

In FOOTLOOSE, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves to a small Iowa town where a fundamentalist preacher (John Lithgow) has banned dancing, rock 'n roll, and immoral books. He chafes at the restrictions and also runs into difficulties with some of the locals who aren't fond of outsiders. But Ren's rebellious streak catches the eye of the preacher's libertine daughter, Ariel (Lori Singer). Frustrated, Ren leads a group of teens across the border for some illicit dancing. Then he petitions the town council for permission to hold a dance, but his impassioned speech falls on deaf ears. Fortunately, the preacher turns the other cheek when his wife (Dianne Wiest) and Ariel tell him he's being a bad father and a poor minister. With the preacher's consent, the dance goes forward, and some local good old boys even learn how to shake it.

The love story between the two leads and the preacher's change of heart are unconvincing. But more importantly, why would anybody ban dancing? In this very strange town, drinking and smoking are pretty much ignored, but dancing is definitely a no-no. And the conversion of the preacher is implausible -- a raving tyrant in one scene, he is the voice of reason in another. Poor John Lithgow gives it all he has, but even this fine actor cannot make sense of the character. Kevin Bacon has a lot of fun with his part, but the same cannot be said for Lori Singer.

No list of dance films could be complete without the jump-in-a-puddle exuberance of Gene Kelly's 1952 Singin' in the Rain. Kelly was a dance proselytizer; he wanted to convince the country that dancing is masculine, athletic, American and cool. As a piece of propaganda, then, this film is a masterwork; as a machine for generating happiness, it's still as well-oiled as it was a half-century ago.

Kevin Bacon can thank the 1984 film Footloose for launching his film career. That's because the X-Men: First Class actor is known for his iconic dancing numbers in Herbert Ross' musical. Footloose follows Chicago teenager Ren McCormack and the culture shock he receives after moving to the small yet fictional town of Bomont with his mother. After moving, Ren quickly discovers the town council's staunch opinion on the ban on dancing and rock music.

Bomont's outlaw of dancing is fueled by Reverend Shaw Moore and his wife, Vi. Ren befriends their daughter, Ariel, who frequently goes against her parents' wishes with her reckless behavior. Ren discovers the town's ban on dancing stems from Ariel's older brother's death in a car accident after a night of dancing and alcohol. But while many remember Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero," written solely for Footloose, many forget the real-life inspiration behind the popular film.

Footloose, later remade in 2011 with stars like Julianne Hough and Miles Teller, was based on the true story of Elmore City, Oklahoma. The small town's dancing ban dates back to 1898 to control the amount of alcohol consumed and the rowdy activities associated with it. However, it wasn't until 1979 that students at Elmore High School brought the ban to the school board due to their frustration of not having a prom.

Like Footloose, a local minister headed the anti-dancing movement and believed the practice was considered Satanic worship. However, students got fed up with not having school dances. According to 405 Magazine, the board president and local rancher, Raymond Lee, cast a tie-breaking vote for lifting the dance ban. In an epic one-liner fit for a film, Lee declared, "Let 'em dance." The town later hosted the first dance since the ban was enacted in 1898.

The events in Elmore City filled tabloids internationally and gained the attention of Dean Pitchford. He traveled to the Oklahoma town and stayed a week to learn about the residents' experiences with the prohibition of dancing. Inspired by the story, Pitchford wrote the screenplay for Footloose. In fact, the name Ren is an amalgam of junior class officers Rex Kennedy and Leonard Coffee, who were part of the 1980 movement to host a prom.

Cassidy Stephenson is a reader, writer, and video game enthusiast. She now works as a Senior Writer for Comic Book Resources. In her free time, she loves watching movies, listening to music, and pulling 5-stars on Genshin Impact. Follow her on Twitter for more shenanigans @Cassidy_Lee18 You can also contact her at

The update is set in the present. This time, Ren McCormack (newcomer Kenny Wormald) is transplanted from Boston (not Chicago) to the home of relatives in the small Bible Belt town of Bomont after his single mother dies of leukemia, and he immediately experiences a jolt of culture shock when he discovers that loud music and unauthorized public dancing are prohibited by law. It seems the Rev. Shaw Moore (Randy Quaid), who also is a city councilman, demanded creation of the ordinance three years ago after his son and four other teenagers were killed in a traffic accident after a night on the town.

Because as Ren beautifully states in his plea to the Bomont Town Council for the seniors to have a dance, even in the Bible there is dancing. Dancing is prayer. Dancing is one of the ways humans have worshipped at various gods feet since the dawn of time. Dancing is one of the few things across all cultures that is universal. Faith and fun can absolutely be compatible. It is so wild to me to think that even now in 2019 America there are still towns that do not allow dancing in their city limits. 041b061a72


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