Finding Your Place in Hope Dances (Movie Review)

John FarrellBy John Farrell6 Minutes

Do you ever feel like you’re being tugged in two different directions? Have you ever had to choose between hurting your best friend and pursuing your dreams?

Unfortunately, Hope Douglas (Avarose Dillon) knows both scenarios all too well. Hope is the titular character in the 2017 film, Hope Dances. Although this sweet, family-friendly flick won’t win any awards, it is an endearing tale of friendship (even in the midst of tragedy), hard work, and chasing your dreams.

Softball vs. Dance

There are two things Hope loves more than anything … softball and dance. Not only does she love them both, but she’s also excellent at both. And seeing the talent and potential Hope has for both activities, her parents push her toward them, often in direct opposition to the other.

Her dad, Jay (Michael Cotter), wants her to be a softball player. On the softball diamond, Hope is adept at running the bases and making spectacular plays in the outfield, often using the skills she honed in the dance studio on the field. She has dreams of playing on the USA National Softball team and perhaps someday representing her country in the Olympics. And with the All-Star Game coming up, there is a good chance she may be selected as the lone representative from her team to play in the special game.

Her mom, Tina (Sunny Doench), however, sees the talent she has on stage and is constantly pushing Hope to pursue her dance dreams – particularly, playing Clara, the female lead, in The Nutcracker. When a flyer advertising the Mid-Regional Duet Competition is posted at Vivi’s School of Dance, Hope and her less-talented best friend Kayla (Gianna Gularte) sign up.

Hope’s dreams of becoming Clara are heightened when they’re told that a man named Yuri (Michael Swan), who is the Executive Director of the Nutcracker Ballet and owner of the prestigious local Ballet Academy, will be attending the Duet Competition and inviting dancers to audition for the Nutcracker and a spot in his academy.

Finding Her Place

With pressures mounting for Hope both on the diamond and the stage, Hope must make a decision to dedicate her time and focus to one of her extracurricular activities as the softball games and the dance auditions conflict with each other. In a moment of profundity, she quips, “To be really good at something, you have to work super hard. To be good at two things seems impossible.”

She knows she has an important decision to make, and she wants to make both parents happy, but she knows one of them will initially be upset. Throughout the film, viewers see the internal struggles Hope is dealing with, and she often wonders where her place is in this world—a feeling many of us often have. (I know I have.)  Where does she belong? On the field or on the stage? It’s a decision that only she can make in order to find fulfillment and happiness. Fortunately, her grandmother (or Gigi), played by Astrid McWilliams, sagely advises Hope to follow her dreams and her parents will (hopefully) understand.

Hope ultimately decides to hang up her cleats in favor of her pointe shoes. Unsurprisingly, her dad doesn’t take the news well, calling her a “quitter” (harsh words to hear from a parent), although he does eventually come around and apologize.

Meanwhile, another talented dancer, Dani (Elaina Greenwalt), arrives at Vivi’s School of Dance. Her talent is on par with Hope’s, leaving Kayla to wonder if Hope will leave her to enter the duet competition with Dani. Although Hope and Dani quickly become friends, they also become competitors.

Hope’s dreams of landing the prestigious role of Clara takes a major hit when Kayla is in a car accident and confined to a wheelchair. There’s a good chance Kayla will never dance again.

What does Hope do? Does she partner with Dani for the Mid-Regional Duet Competition? Does she sit out the competition? Or does she take the stage with her wheelchair-bound best friend? And how do her family and friends react when they learn of her decision? Is she offered a role in the Ballet Academy’s performance of The Nutcracker? Or will she have to audition again next year?

Those questions and more can be answered by watching Hope Dances.