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Hey kids, I had the pleasure to chat with the director of the delightful, insightful documentary, Gotta DanceDori Berinstein talked about what it was like to catch this hard-working hip-hop dance squad made up entirely of senior citizens and filming them on their home court with the New Jersey Nets.

Dig it.

 Gotta Dance

Director Dori Berinstein

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  How did you find out about the Netsational Dancers?

Dori BerinsteinI had in my mind for a long time to do a movie thatís a total celebration of life and about people chasing their dreams and I didnít know what it was gonna be or where to find that story.  And I opened the newspaper one day and there was a little blurb in Cindy Adams column about how the New Jersey Nets were holding an audition for a new senior citizen dance team, but it didnít even say hip-hop. I thought, ĎOh well, this has promise,í and I grabbed my camera and ran.  I didnít know if they were gonna give me permission to shoot or if these seniors were gonna be fabulous.  The permission I got was just amazing.  These seniors turned out to be amazing, so vivacious, so inspiring, so much fun, and it was hip-hop!  It just doesnít get better than that.

 

LMD:  Whose idea was the programme?  I think most people would have been happy seeing these folks dance to Singiní in the Rain.

DB:  I think it was Petra Pope.  One thing I was concerned about was if it was putting the cute senior dancers out there, then that wasnít it; there wasnít that much there.  But from the get-go, the Nets take their entertainment so seriously, they made it clear that this was a serious dance team, that even though they were not professionals, they were going to be treating these senior citizens as professional dancers, setting a very high bar.  They expected them to work extremely hard and if they were not good enough to go on, they werenít going on.  I was like ĎWhoa, okay, I like this,í theyíre not getting any special treatment and theyíre really gonna push them. Then it was really promising because the movie I wanted to make makes the statement that age doesnít matter unless youíre a cheese.

 

LMD:  Were any of the dancers hesitant about your filming their life stories or coming into their home or even filming them in practise?

DB:  Thatís a great question.  When making a documentary film, so much of it is establishing a bond, a trust and making sure people are comfortable. They know where youíre going, that if they have any questions, they can look at your body of work and they know Iím not going to be making some kind of expose.  There was one senior, who from the get-go was so aware that we were there and ran, and that was Betty/Betsy.  Sheís such an introvert and I thought, ĎOkay, fine, not every senior will be in this.í  It took time for everybody to be completely comfortable and trusting and obviously, she very much opened up and shared her life with us, which Iím so grateful to her for.

 

LMD: What was it like to actually shoot on the New Jersey Netsí court during their games?   Was anything off-limits to your crew?

DB:  They couldnít have been more supportive or more gracious.  My team was given an all-access pass.  And of course, we were very respectful of that and we didnít go anywhere we didnít think we should go and we were very focused on what we were doing, so we werenít bothering the players or anything like that.  But it was thrilling! Iíd say the first few times I was so myopically focused on getting the shot and making sure that my team was doing what they was supposed to and I was rooting for the seniors.  Then maybe the fourth time we shot them performing it was like, ĎOh my goodness, look where I am,í and I was very aware of the stadium of twenty-thousand people and Iím standing next to basketball players twice my height.  It was just amazing, but I needed to relax into the situation and that way I was able to appreciate it.

 

LMD:  Were you tempted to get more of Jay-Zís  reaction during the Netsationalsí dance?

DB:  {Laughs} I was so tempted, but you know we wanted to be respectful.  We also had a mission, if my cameraís on Jay-Z, we wouldnít have been able to get what we were there to get.

 

LMD:  This could easily have made a great narrative film.  Had you considered that, or are you interested in narrative filmmaking at all?

DB:  I am passionate about making narrative films.  I plan on making narrative films and Iím working on the narrative adaptation of this film.

 

LMD:  Who do you think will see this film?  What do you want audiences to take away?

DB:  That was the important thing when we were making the movie, that it was a film for everyone, mainly because I think itís crucial for the younger generation to really appreciate what these folks have accomplished and perhaps change the way they see their own future, their own thinking about what it means to be sixty, or seventy, or eighty.  I also think itís fun, that theyíd enjoy the film.

 

LMD:  What, if anything, changed in your head after making this documentary?

DB:  That you can do anything with your life, you just have to dive in and do it.  Donít think that you canít because of your age or any reason.  If you have a dream, go do it.  Itís such a proof of concept with what these seniors did and I admire them tremendously and it will absolutely have a huge impact on how I live my life.

 

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 23rd, 2009

 

 

 

 

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Photos

 

Film stills courtesy of Gotta Dance/NBA Films

 

 

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