Is there an intrinsic and quantifiable value that can be assigned to the act of human touch? Has the seamless connectivity of social media actually created more, not less, distance between us? These questions are raised in Susan Glatzer’s kinetic new documentary, “Alive and Kicking,” which focuses not on Silicon Valley, but on the decidedly low-tech world of swing dancing.
Told through short interviews and extended scenes at competitions around the world, the film makes clear that this dance form, born out of the Great Depression, continues to have wide-reaching resonance today. A veteran who served in Iraq explains how it helped him conquer the isolation of post-traumatic stress disorder, while two Swedish women, Emelie and Rebecka DecaVita, gush over its superiority to therapy. These two former psychotherapists are not only dance partners, but also have legally adopted each other as sisters.
Unlike many documentaries in the dance genre, “Alive and Kicking” is not structured around the drama of winning a competitive prize, because that’s not what motivates this community. While the film’s focus reveals Glatzer’s knowledge of this world — she’s been dancing for 18 years — it creates a rootlessness that keeps us from a deeper engagement with the subject. That’s a shame, because the film offers a vivid inside look into this quirky yet welcoming world. Glatzer captures the visceral charge of moving wildly in tandem with another person, often in improvised bouts that forge strong bonds between partners, if only for a few minutes. Unfortunately, the well of personal stories is a bit shallow until the film’s final moments, resulting more in sound bites than cathartic moments. Still, it’s the dancing that’s the real star here.
Unrated. At Landmark’s West End Cinema. Contains some adult situations and brief, nonsexual nudity. 88 minutes.