Directed: Eitan Anner
Language: Hebrew, Russian
Genre: Coming of Age, Drama
Chen, a young kid, is battling a cultural conflict between his Russian born mother and Israeli father. She is cultured and used to the finer things in life, including theater and fine dining. He is gruff on the outside but sweet on the inside - a Sabra; and looking to make his young son a man rather than the wimp his mother is raising. One day, Chen stumbles upon a ballroom dance class for young people and sees Natalie, a stunning Russian young girl he falls in love with immediately. His interest in Natalie leads him to taking ballroom dancing and to ultimately bridging the cultural divide of his own family - through the Cha Cha and the Tango. The teachers are a pair of former Russian world champions who never quite fulfilled their potential, but find themselves battling their demons through the instructions of the kids.
Movie ReviewsCrossing the Culture Divide Begins with One Step
Love & Dance (Sipur Hatzi-Russi), the story of a young boy, Chen, played seamlessly by Vladimir Volov, who is trying to bridge the gap between both his Russian and Israeli cultures.
Inspired by his mother, a waitress, and her love for salsa dancing, Chen attends a dance class with her the night his father forgot their 12-year anniversary. While there, Chen falls for a young Russian dancer, Natalie, the star of the dance academy.
Driven by his budding puppy love and his desire to please his mother, Chen secretly enrolls in a dance class (telling his parents he is at Judo practice) and is quickly partnered up with the sassy and talented Israeli girl Sharon. Sharon is played by actress Talya Raz, who brings such dry wit to the film that she steals each scene she is in.
With only three and a half weeks until the National Junior Dance Competition, Chen goes into overdrive practicing the rumba, cha-cha, and the English waltz with his partner Sharon, his teacher and mentor, Yulia (Jenya Dudina), and even by himself atop sand dunes.
Chen is determined to take first place and thus prove his worth to the beautiful but cold and deeply troubled Natalie, played by Valeria Voevokin. Natalie's dance partner Arthur sees Chen as a threat and often roughs him up as a warning. Yet one can't help but to giggle in these scenes; bullies don't normally wear tight lycra dance pants. That being said, David Kogen does play the perfect domineering and verbally abusive villain.
Set in the Israeli coastal working-class town of Ashdod, Love & Dance not only tells the personal story of a young boy learning and loving to dance; it provides an honest portrait of Russian immigrant life and the prejudice and discrimination that is still deeply entrenched in Israeli society.
Chen, feeling torn between his Israeli father and Russian mother, must make sense of what it means to be a modern-day Russian Israeli—how to honor and be proud of both cultures. This deeper storyline is paralleled with Chen's struggle to find young love—even though it may be with the wrong girl. Throughout the film, we find ourselves rooting for Chen, for his partner Sharon, for his dance instructors, his parents and even the rundown town of Ashdod.