Take the Lead

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Sex. Lang.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Take the Lead
  • a review of Take the Lead completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 May 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence, sexual references and language.
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended.
Children over the age of 13 Should be ok to see this movie with or without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Take the Lead
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence, Mild coarse language, Mild sexual references
Length: 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Take the Lead which is ‘inspired by true events’ tells the story of ballroom dancing teacher Pierre Dulaine (Anotonio Banderas) who started the ‘Dancing Classroom’ in New York inner-city schools. Dulaine is walking home one evening when he witnesses a vicious act of vandalism by a youth attacking a car with a golf club. Disturbed by what he sees Dulaine visits the youth’s school and offers his services to teach the students ballroom dancing. Tough principal, Ms James (Alfre Woodard) whose wall is adorned with photos of students who have died to remind her of her purpose, initially rejects his offer out of hand. However, upon reflection, she decides to take Dulaine up on his offer to teach the students in detention, thinking that this might actually act as a deterrent to detention.

Dulaine faces a tough group of kids such as Rock, (Rob Brown) whose brother is one of those on Ms James’ wall. He has to work to feed his family as his parents are constantly drunk, having never recovered from the death of his brother. Then there’s LaRhette (Yaya DaCosta), whose mother’s a prostitute and she has to go home every day to take care of her younger brother and sisters. These kids don’t mind their own style of rap and hip-hop dancing but are certain they don’t want to learn ballroom dancing.  Dulaine firmly believes that through ballroom dancing the kids can learn trust, self respect, team work and gain some dignity. He perseveres against the odds until one day Dulaine decides to bring in one of his professional female dancers to demonstrate how sensual and sexy ballroom dancing can be. This certainly makes quite an impression on the kids and their attitude changes from that point on. Dulaine even manages to persuade them to train for the 25th Annual Grand Ballroom competition which holds a money prize of $5000.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Social disadvantage

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • This movie is about disadvantaged black and Hispanic youth in New York and shows a lot of real life violence and crime that occurs there. Some violent scenes in this movie include the following:
  • Rock is refused admission to the school dance and is physically pushed out by the bouncer
  • Rock smashes the principal’s car with a golf club (after being encouraged to do so by his peers)
  • Rock gets hit by a car but is not hurt.
  • Rock’s father hits him and they get into a fight.
  • LaRhette refuses the advances of one her mother’s ‘clients’ who then starts to attack her. Her mother comes home just in time.
  • Rock and LaRhette have a physical fight.
  • Boys on the dance floor get into a fight.
  • Rock goes out with a gang to commit a crime. He is given a gun but doesn’t want to use it. The gang leader takes the gun from him and then points it at Rock. He shoots it at the ceiling and Rock then attacks him. The other gang members all attack Rock and leave him beaten up, lying on the floor.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Rock’s father is shown vomiting into a toilet.
  • The photos on the principal’s wall of students who have all died.
  • Some scenes of petty crime – theft and drug dealing.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed or scared by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children aged eight to thirteen could still be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes particularly the disadvantaged lifestyle of the students such as Rock and LaRhette.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

While young adolescents may not be too concerned by this movie, many could still benefit from some discussion of its content.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • when Dulaine and the female dancer demonstrate ballroom dancing, one of the female students describes it as ‘sex on hardwood’
  • one of the girls is reluctant to take a boy’s hand because she’s not sure if it’s clean, so he sticks his hands down the front of his pants to make a point.

Nudity and sexual activity


Use of substances

There is some reference to drug use in this movie, including:

  • reference is made to kids selling drugs
  • some of the students have died from drugs
  • drug deals are at times apparent in the background.

Coarse language

There is frequent coarse language in this movie, including:

  • arse
  • arsehole
  • shit
  • crap
  • punk arse.

In a nutshell

Although the theme of Take the Lead has been done so many times before, it will appeal to lovers of ballroom dancing particularly, but to many others as well. The movie’s message is that self respect and a sense of self worth will go a long way in overcoming the difficulties produced by a disadvantaged background.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • self respect
  • respect for others
  • tolerance
  • inclusion
  • collaboration
  • care and concern for others
  • empathy.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the issues of:

  • violence as a way of solving conflict
  • social inequity
  • street crime such as theft, drug dealing, etc.
  • the effects of social disadvantage on young people.