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Published: 30 July 2009

Eccentric teachers Fiona and Dom
Quick-step Rumba proves not such a merry dance

Directed by Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon
Certificate PG

THIS hugely unconventional film runs for little more than an hour and its short format means you have little time for any seat fidgeting, despite hugely long scenes without one iota of dialogue.
It requires your concentration at all times and, sadly, does not always warrant it. Loaded with physical comedy, it is shot like a silent film, and in places is fantastical to watch. However, when the pace relents, you will wonder where the joke is.
We meet suitably eccentric teachers Fiona and Dom in the midst of taking classes. Fiona has her little charges reciting ridiculous tongue-twisters, while in the playground we spot Dom prancing around with nippers following on like some kind of PE teacher Pied Piper.
Then, the school bell goes and the pair meet in the gymnasium, and we discover this is ­clearly a day job. The real fun starts when classes are out. In a wonderfully set-up scene, which amply demonstrates the theatrical influences the leading cast members have drawn on, we discover our quirky teachers are married and are champion dance partners. This fact is introduced by the appearance of a delicately pointed foot appearing from the left, then an outstretched hand from the right. Cue music, cue comic dance, cue the beginnings of a plot. While we are not treated to a rumba (and in fact see very little of the dance performed at all), as the pair show off their moves, it’s quite a lot fun.
While things are smiley-happy and finger-snappy for our rumba-dancing pair, tragedy is lurking.
On their way home from a competition (where they have of course scooped first prize) they swerve off the road to avoid a man attempting to kill himself and the accident changes their lives: Fiona loses a leg, while Dom loses his memory.
The rest of the film focuses on the difficulties this causes the pair, but how, in their silent way, they both put a brave face
on it.
Leading actress Fiona Gordon told the New Journal that they were heavily influenced by French physical theatre. I found this made it rather unapproachable at times, like a Franco Mr Bean.
“It is essentially an optimistic film,” she says. “The couple are not pathetic – they have this awful life-changing thing happen to them, but they spend their time finding new ways to adapt to their circumstances.”
Fiona and her fellow cast members Dominique and Phillipe have all worked for many years for leading Canadian, French and Belgium theatre companies, specialising in silent physical performance: this is apparent through their ability to hold their bodies in striking poses. And this prompted them into choosing dance as a hook for the story.
“Dance has always been part of our theatrical creations,” says Fiona.
“We invent choreog­raphy, which we use as a personal blend of dexterity and humour.”
But she admits the rumba is a dance they did not know well.
“We knew little about it when we started, and just as little when we finished,” she jokes.
“We had thought about the tango, but the rumba seemed more joyful, and frankly, funnier.”
And while the film does benefit from the comic opportunities provided by two people looking deadly serious while they throw their bodies into ridiculous shapes, it was not enough to keep me giggling throughout. 
There is a ropy old charm about much of it, using techniques that are borrowed from the silent era such as cars with moving backgrounds giving the impression that the couple are speeding down country lanes as they get changed into the dance outfits.
But sadly, I am afraid to say I did not always get the joke, and this type of silent physical comedy is an acquired taste I cannot say I savour. 

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