In my latest podcast episode, I chat with out writer/director Dan Watt about his new documentary, “Everybody Dance.” The film – a joyous, inspiring celebration of art and ambition – follows Bonnie Schlachte’s Ballet For All Kids dance studio in California.
As the name says, the studio teaches dance to all kids: all ages, all abilities and disabilities – including those with special needs like cerebral palsy or on the autistic spectrum.
Click play to hear my interview with Dan Watt:
With a career that began as a dancer and choreographer, out creative artist Dan went on to work with stars like Bea Arthur, Ben Vereen, Carol Channing, and Simon Cowell, as well as working at Columbia Pictures in film development.
But a few years ago, he made the decision to tell the stories that HE wanted to tell – with a focus on exploring the human experience, humanity, and social issues.
In choosing a subject for his debut effort as a director and producer, Dan reflected on his fascination with people who study the arts but don’t make it their profession. He used to ask people questions like, “How did your piano lessons help you in your everyday life or career”?
“Everybody Dance” not only explores the lives of several of the dance students at Ballet For All Kids along with their families, but the film chronicles the weeks before the dance studio’s all-important annual dance recital.
That’s right – these special needs kids dance onstage right next to their classmates who Miss Bonnie describes as “typical” kids.
I love that she never refers to anyone as “normal” – a word I hate. As opening night grows closer and closer, you can’t help but root for these kids and their passion for dance.
“By dancing, the children shake off isolation and the narrative of not being good enough,” says Dan.
The film was an official selection at both the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the Cleveland International Film Festival, AND – it currently has an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dan hopes “Everybody Dance” will enlighten and shine a light on the importance of inclusion and accessibility, and how studying the arts leaves everyone with skills that help us in day to day life like discipline and focus. It never comes off as preachy, but rather a celebration of victory.
You can watch the official trailer for “Everybody Dance” below.