Judge David Johnson is an awesome jazz dancer. Just. Awesome.
41 Dancers. 10 Performances. 104 Rehearsals. 473 Costumes. 2,197 Miles. One incredible year.
Filmmaker Andy Milkis turns his documentarian sensibilities towards an elite girls dance school. 5, 6, 7, 8 is a year-in-the-life excursion with owner and lead choreographer Jenn, as she gets her troupe ready for a huge final concert. The mechanics of this trip to the stage—the auditions, the practices, the teaching, the choreography—are examined, but the real meat of the production is the real-life emotions and friendship that bubble up from the girls themselves. Since the performances are given a generous chunk of runtime, I hope you like teenagers doing jazz dance, because you'll be suffering if you don't.
Truthfully, I could care less about the subject matter. This lady has a fairly well-known dance academy (since right off the bat she laments the shortfall of 100 students) and a husband who is good at math (at least that's what she tells us in one of her interviews). Not sure what that adds to the narrative, but lock that away in case the info serves you at some point in the future. To make matters worse, Jenn is not an engaging character. When she's not overbearing—not cartoonishly overbearing in an entertaining way, just irritatingly so—she's downright boring. Sorry, Jenn. I can see you value your life's work, it's just not doing anything for me.
What remedies 5, 6, 7, 8 is the genuineness of the girls. When the focus shifts to them, the film's energy spikes. Despite the camera, they aren't guarded with their emotions, and transparently allow a glance into what it means to be a teenaged girl under a lot of pressure, striving to accomplish something substantial, while also balancing a normal life full of angst, sentimentality, and joy. It's simple, but revealing, and that's where the heart of the effort lies.
The specs: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Dolby 5.1 Surround, a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and a photo gallery.
The girls are charming. The rest I can do without.
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