June 16, 2016 

By Brittany K. Jackson 

Contributing Writer


Recently, the Sentinel attended the screening for “The Fits,” a euphoric dance film exploring the day-to-day feelings of hysteria and mass psychogenic illness that a self-proclaimed introvert and her fellow dance team suddenly experience during dance rehearsals.


“The Fits” follows a little black girl from the West End of Cincinnati named Toni, played by actress Royalty Hightower. Toni is an 11-year-old brave heart with a passion for mastering the art of dance, but also very quietly maintains a self-isolated and drifting disposition while in group settings.


Toni is the quintessential tomboy seeking to find herself and overcome her fears amidst the constant surety of her adolescent and teenage counterparts. The film also explores Toni’s relationship with her teenage brother, the protector and responsible party, and Toni’s ensuing quest to discover life through her own lenses and rules.


Writer, director and producer of the film, Anna Rose Holmer, says the concept for the paranormal spin on a dance film came from researching real cases of hysteria and mass psychogenic illnesses throughout history. Holmer, who had been working as a producer in dance films, says that she started “reimagining the subconscious, spontaneous movements as choreographies.”


While each girl appears to experience the euphoria in personally attributed outbursts, Toni’s view of their experience is often perplexing, sometimes scary, and most times motivating as Toni conquers her missteps in rhythm and dance. With each girl that acquires “the fits”, Toni gets closer to her unified dream of standing out on the dance floor, fully suited in her team’s sparkly, gold and royal blue attire, a sure rarity for the toned tomboy.


The film’s cinematography style brilliantly uses elongated, wide-angled views to portray Toni in very still moments of self-discovery. Shot by cinematographer Paul Yee, Holmer says the two have a “trusted collaborative vocabulary”, and agreed to use a “single lens focus to pull the audience in to Toni’s POV.”


In one scene, Toni finds herself standing quietly in the middle of an emptied community pool, looking to the heavens for answers to why every single member of her dance squad has seemed to experience this exorcist like trance of sorts, except her, preparing to face the inevitable. “In film and dance, you have to be really intentional, really clear with your framing to emphasize these moments and these gestures,” Holmer noted. It’s certain that the stillness of the atmosphere throughout film is complimentary to the adolescent’s quest to find her place in the world. 


The film also brings a natural quality of fusion as it pertains to the casting. The older teenage boys, who are found throughout the film boxing in a segregated part of Cincinnati’s community center, casually talk about getting girls with native inflections, while the girls appear as though they’ve been dancing together since babies, trading congenial lingo as real sisters would. Holmer attested to the notion saying that the cast is in fact an actual dance squad. The “Q-Kidz”, founded by Marquicia Jones-Woods more than 30 years ago, have remained a staple in Cincinnati’s West End community.


Holmer says that overall, the storyline illustrates the rawness and vulnerability of a ferocious 11-year old girl who is “complex, fearless but afraid, confident yet unsure.” “Those aren’t contradictions, that’s what it means to be a human being,” Holmer said. “It’s scary to be vulnerable, but it’s necessary to grow,” Holmer continued.


“The Fits” recently made its’ Los Angeles debut on June 10.

Category: Arts & Culture

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