The famous dance scene from Godard's Bande a Part (1964), has a lovely spontaneous feel to it, a found moment, choreographed magic entering ordinary life, like none of them had any idea they were going to do it until suddenly they were, transported by the music into synchronised grace. 'Franz thinks of everything and nothing,' the narrator tells us, 'uncertain if reality is becoming dream, or dream reality.'
Twenty-eight years later Hal Hartley re-enacted the scene in Simple Men (1992). In the original the music was an R&B number composed for the film by Michel Legrand and christened the Madison dance by the actors. Here the jukebox is playing Kool Thing by Sonic Youth.
This dance is less ineffably cool than the Godard, perhaps, more shambolically awkward, more contrived in the way anything that's a copy rather than the original will inevitably be, but this makes it its own thing, I think, an outburst of defiant energy and noise in a dead-ass country town. One's magic, the other's release. What both scenes have in common, though, is the way the men seem to take their cue from the women. Their un-selfconscious spontaneity seems to create a space, a moment, where dream and reality can meet.
There's something almost religious about this, an age-old connection between dance and altered states. Consider the word dervish. It means doorway to god or enlightenment. The dervish dancers of the Sufi religion whirl incessantly while repeating the name of god until they fall into a trance, a state of deep worship. Surely there's a fragment of this idea in these scenes, the trance state of music and dance taking them towards a more modern state of enlightenment, a place where they feel intensely alive but also blessed by something greater than themselves, something not of this world.