By Daniel Patlan
“The Next Dance”
Starring Danielle Curiel and Jonathan “Lil’ J” McDaniel
Directed by Steve Snyder
Screenplay by Jenn Pinto
Director Steve Snyder and writer Jenn Pinto present us a Los Angeles world full of family dysfunction, overdue dreams, and fierce dance moves in the film The Next Dance. Decorated with a fantastic dancing cast, the film carries deep life-lessons weight that anyone with ambitions could relate to. Leading actors Danielle Curiel and Jonathan “Lil’ J” McDaniel bring their characters to life through great chemistry, but it’s the way they unravel their complex relationship that defines their performances.
The Next Dance begins with aerial shots of that majestic dream-making (or hope-crushing) city of Los Angeles. Blended into the city views are silhouettes of performers dancing to hip-hop. These initial shots are remarkable in their composure and contrasts – even if they are only establishing the film’s locale. We meet our main characters as children. Little Selena (Brianna Curiel) is of dancing pedigree, as her mom (Kimmarie Johnson) is a successful dance instructor with her own studio. New to the neighborhood Tristan (Josh Levi) follows his curiosity and runs into Selena as she’s practicing a hip-hop dance routine in front of her house. Their initial interaction is the classic boy meets girl: girl is friendly to boy, and then boy picks on girl. Soon enough, through small incidents and interactions, Tristan and Selena mold their schoolyard relationship into one solid friendship. At the same time of their growing bond, Tristan gets a job at Selena’s studio as its resident custodian. By way of a sly cut of Tristan working, we jump over a decade into the future; and we now see a much older ladies-man Tristan (Jonathan “Lil J” McDaniel) watching gorgeous curly-haired Selena (Danielle Curiel) gracefully dance her way through her choreography. In the middle of the routine, she is informed that music sensation Blake Andrews will be holding a contest for back-up dancers. The $100,000 prize money seems within reach considering her impressive skillset. As a stand-alone scene, we get the impression that life is good for our duo, but the underlying complexities of life give no free pass to anyone.
Despite the opportunity the contest brings, Selena’s household is crumbling. From her childhood scenes, we learn early on that her dad (Art Bonilla) is a lying womanizer of colossal proportions. One can assume any reason as to why Selena’s mom stays with dad, but it definitely doesn’t help the family. The constant fighting between her parents shape Selena into believing that “all men are punks.” Much worse, dad’s infidelity causes some severe complications for Selena to the point that Blake Andrew’s prize money no longer becomes an option.