Dance movie proves Swayze still a ‘rubber person’

Some movies take but months to finish. Others take a year. And still others take upwards of 18 years.

“One Last Dance,” starring Patrick Swayze and his wife, Lisa Niemi, was such a movie, requiring over a decade of preparation and practice to make the show happen.

The film follows three ex-dancers as they try to get back in shape to perform the dance that took them out of the business in the first place. After their master choreographer dies, they agree to reunite and perform in an attempt to save his company. But the reunion reopens old wounds of past loves and possible feelings of inadequacy among the dancers.

The movie is written and directed by Niemi, who also co-produced it with Swayze. But perhaps the most amazing aspect of the movie is the actual dancing done by Swayze, 53, and Niemi, 49.

The idea for the movie came about 18 years ago, but did not get off the ground right away because of the lack of a script that the actors felt did justice to the premise of the film. After much prodding, Niemi agreed to write the script, and the magic of the dance was born.

After five years of training, both Niemi and Swayze were prepared to perform dances that are not normally attempted by those over 40 years of age. Between difficult lifts and twisting movements, the couple proved that after all these years, they can still dance.

The movie has only been released on DVD, but should be a sure hit. The dancing is the central focus of the film with the movements telling a story of three people afraid to reconnect because of hidden secrets they may discover.

It is quite obvious in the beginning of the film that there is a secret relationship between Travis (Swayze) and Chrissa (Niemi) as they perform with ease, yet maintain their distance. Niemi brings a certain innocence to a character that would be difficult to sympathize with during her diva-esque requests and random fits of yelling at the people who seem to be trying to help.

Travis is a man trying to find his dance once again and would like to make amends for any past indiscretions against Chrissa. At times, Swayze’s expressions seem very monotone, but he all but makes up for it with his dance performance and the emotion that infuses it.

Max, played by George de la Pena, does not reveal much about himself through most of the film, instead playing backseat to the problems between Travis and Chrissa. His one outburst, however, reveals pent-up emotion, and Pena brings the character to life as the confident, supposed backbone of the team.

Though slightly shabby, the DVD extras do provide important insight into the complicated making of the movie. In a behind-the-scenes montage, the actors explain how difficult it was to put on their dancing shoes so late in their lives.

“Physically, it sure would have been nice to have done (the movie) 18 years ago when we were still closer to a little rubber person,” Swayze says on the DVD.

Despite this, it is obvious he is still the master dancer he was back in “Dirty Dancing,” when he played the rebellious, yet wickedly talented Johnny Castle. Swayze moves with such ease, attacking each step and making the movements flow.

The DVD extras also feature a look at the talented dancers who are cast as members of the company. They tell of the humbleness on the set and the difficulties of the dances themselves. The set also features snippets of their practice sessions, something that, for every true dance fan, is a joy to watch and provides a fun look at the rehearsals and difficulties in making a movie all about dance.

Perhaps Swayze gives the best explanation of what the movie is about in an interview with People magazine: “It’s loosely based on our lives as dancers and the idea that it’s never too late to rediscover a dream.”