Paris is Burning" directed by Jennie Livingston and "Rize" directed by David LaChapelle. Specifically it will compare and contrast the two films. Both of these films revolve around alternative cultures and dance, and they show how dance can help solve problems, bring happiness, and bring people closer together.
Both of the subcultures presented in these documentaries are outside of the mainstream and the "normal" world. "Rize" portrays a dance culture that grew up in the ghettos of Los Angeles, where kids have few choices in life. They can join a gang, or not join a gang, that is about it. Tommy the Clown, a main character in "Rize," offers them an alternative. "Clowning" or "Krumping" are two types of dance that Tommy helped create, and there are large groups of kids that join clowning and krumping groups as an alternative to gangs. In fact, the movement has gained major ground in South Central Los Angeles, and it has kept hundreds or even thousands of kids off the streets and in a safe and nurturing environment. "Paris is Burning" portrays the underground gay, cross-dressing community in New York, and their dance style of "vogueing," which is a type of dance that mimics runway models and their high-fashion clothing.
Both of these films show the importance of dance in these communities. In "Rize," the young people join a clowning or krumping group, meet often to rehearse and exchange ideas, and then engage in "Battle Zones" where they compete against each other to see who is the better dancing group. This creates a huge audience for their work, and highlights their abilities. Battle Zones are shown in the film where judges rate the groups as they compete, and one took place at a large arena in LA with thousands of spectators. The dancers become involved in each other's lives and in helping others, and do not support the alternative hip-hop lifestyle that many other South Central residents adopt. For the dancers, their music and dance is everything in their lives, and it helps give them perspective, as well as keeping them out of trouble. Tommy the Clown invented clowning, and he recruits new members into his group as an attempt to help them. He often targets kids who are not doing well in school, or have troubled relationships at home, in an attempt to help them improve their lives. Dance gives meaning to their lives and helps them feel hopeful about the future.
The same is true in "Paris is Burning." While the men portrayed in this film are mostly adults with similar interests, they are still a subculture of "normal" society. They enjoy cross-dressing, and have formed their own "club" of sorts where they can engage in the activity. To spice it up, they add dance moves, and compete for trophies at lavish balls. This "ball culture" transfers into their personal lives, too. Many of the men band together and live in "houses," such as the famous fashion houses of New York. They live as extended families as a way to protect themselves from the cruelties of the outside world. Many of these men live in poverty, just like the kids of South Central, and many have been thrown out of their families because they are gay, which is another reason they tend to band together in families.
Both of these groups suffer from poverty, but they suffer from prejudice, too. In South Central, the dance movement grew up after the 1992 Rodney King verdict and the riots it produced, as a form of protest about prejudice and racial injustice. The ball-walkers suffer from prejudice and misunderstanding because of their sexuality. In both cases, the groups use dancing as a method to entertain and enjoy each other's talents, but they use it as a way to cope with the injustices of the world, and forget about them while they are dancing. Dance gives their lives meaning and gives both groups hope. That shows in the sheer abandon of both dance styles, and how the people throw themselves into the dance with everything they have.
Both of these films show the competitions involved with these two dance groups, too. The competitions make the dance more important somehow, and more memorable.…