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Light Fantastic, The (1960)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

London barrow boy Ron Hitchins introduces himself and explains that he only works a couple of days a week, devoting the rest of his time to dancing: jive, mambo, cha-cha-cha, rock'n'roll, rumba, anything that takes his fancy.

His current passion is for Spanish dancing, which he demonstrates in a smoke-filled bar, and then talks about the people who come to see it: nearly all of them are English. He's been taking lessons, naively assuming that he'd master everything in six months, and wishes he was younger - the right time to start dancing is at school, before the bones are fully set.

Other types of dance being practiced in Britain are ballet, Morris dancing, tap dancing, Greek dancing and Russian dancing. In the latter, the dancers clap their hands to bring down the rain, and wave their arms to represent fully-grown corn. A school head teacher explains that he has made ballroom dancing a compulsory subject, alongside the three Rs, as he's found it improves his pupils' deportment, cleanliness and overall maturity.

A traditional English horn dance has been performed for over a thousand years, on the first Monday following the fourth of September, regardless of weather. 74-year-old Jim Fowell explains his family connection to the dance and his method of preventing blisters.

In Latin dances, all the steps are meticulously worked out, as are the costumes: one woman has a dress with 40,000 sequins, all of which she sewed on. A much more modern form of dance involves black-clad people swaying to the sound of a gong, moving independently as the music moves them. Meanwhile, Lancashire clog dancers move in strictly regimented groups.

Hitchins concludes with two very popular dances, though he dislikes both for different reasons: rock'n'roll is too monotonous, while ballroom dancing is too choreographed, based more on counting than creative expression. He reflects on how dance has become an industry with five million customers and a £30 million turnover.