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SAVE THE LAST DANCE

About The Dancing

"There is no question that hip-hop is the dominant pop culture in the world today, particularly in this country," notes Carter. who earlier directed "Swing Kids," which incorporated music and dance from a very different era. "The culture comes from the poor, the disenfranchised. Hip-hop was born from several disciplines. There's a great reggae influence because of the syncopated beat. It's certainly urban and very true to the language of the street. It's the poetry of people who are not necessarily sophisticated with language, but there is a raw elegance about it. It's so exuberant."

To capture that exuberance on film, award- winning choreographer Fatima and colleague Richmond Talauega began working with the cast a month before filming began. After hours in front of the cameras during their normal work week, stars Stiles and Thomas would spend eight hours every weekend in a dance studio. In addition, they regularly went to Chicago clubs to soak in the atmosphere.

All this was in preparation for the film's big dance sequences, which Carter helmed over an eight-day period at Crobar, one of Chicago's hottest, most eclectic nightclubs. Located in a funky warehouse district on Chicago's North Side, the club gained infamy as the exclusive hangout for former Chicago Bulls bad boy Dennis Rodman.

Fatima also worked closely with fellow hoofer Randy Duncan, a veteran ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer, to create a special hybrid dance number for the film — a combination of ballet and hip-hop that Julia performs for her final audition for Juilliard.

Stiles says: "' Save the Last Dance' deals with a lot of social issues that are more serious than teen movies usually tackle, but then there's a lot of fun and excitement in all of the dance that goes on. It really makes you want to be part of that world when you see these kids having fun at the club."

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