Strictly Ballroom: 30 years of breaking rules for the better

Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 directorial debut is an Australian classic. Strictly Ballroom holds up not only thanks to its sparkly costumes, but because of an enduring narrative: effecting change. (Image: Tumblr)

By Sarah Herrmann | @sarahherrmann_

“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”

It’s not just the iconised line from Baz Luhrmann’s first rom-com, but a reminder. 

We have the power and the courage to change our lives, the lives of those around us, and the world. 

A reminder that doesn’t go astray decades on.

Protest is our progress.

Strictly Ballroom (1992) follows experienced dancer Scott and beginner Fran who stray from family expectation and dance sport tradition, exploring creative expression and reinventing culture – even if it means risking a shot at the holy-grail Pan Pacific Grand Prix title.

This year, Strictly celebrates its 30th year as – yes – a heart-warmer, but, more than that, as an inspiration. 

Luhrmann himself has said, “To me, the film is not about ballroom dancing. It’s about overcoming oppression, whatever nature that oppression takes.”

And what a timely anniversary.

Living in an era of protest, we kicked conservatives from their seats in May, celebrated LGBTQIA+ Pride in June, and marched once again for bodily autonomy in July. 

When will Julian Assange be released? We can’t know, but we hope for change.

And we won’t do it as dancers spinning like mice on a wheel, but on the ground in red dresses and beaded jackets – symbols of defiance, joy, passion.

Young people are the “someone who’ll set the right example”, the legacy we choose to leave behind.

“We’re telling a story,” Scott reminds Fran.

We are writing our history. And life is an art, not a science. It becomes a painting beyond the petri dish. Pushing perimeters, just like dancing. Our movements can be measured, sure, but they should be our own. It’s our turn to take “new steps”, to make them.

“I couldn’t throw all that away on the dream; we had to survive!” 

If we don’t aspire, who are we? 

“We had the chance, but we walked away; we lived our lives in fear.” 

Who are we, if we don’t act?

“You can dance any steps you like; it doesn’t mean you’ll win.” 

Except, it’s not always about the victory. It’s about the fight. 

Will we march when we are silenced? Will we rally when we are divided? Will we rise when we have fallen? Will we keep on stepping?

Democracy will not be a burden, not if we claim it. 

“You’ve just got not to be scared.”

You can watch the 30-year reunion of the fearless Strictly Ballroom cast on 7Plus.

And if you’ve never seen the national treasure itself, what are you still doing here?

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