If you ever wondered what ‘Love & Basketball’ would be like as a hip-hop dance movie, ‘The Next Dance’ is your jam

OPINION: The 2014 movie basically two-steps the entire plot of the classic coming-of-age-in-love film, beat for beat.

“The Next Dance.” (Screenshot/YouTube)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

The Next Dance airs on theGrio TV and theGrio’s streaming app on Tuesday, April 26 at 2 p.m. and Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m. Download the app.

I used to joke that 2002’s Brown Sugar—quite possibly my favorite movie—should have been titled Love & Basketball 2: When They Put Down Basketballs and Picked Up Boomboxes. It was my tongue-in-cheek way of saying that the two movies bore an insane number of similarities. 

Both are love stories that start as the protagonists are children who eventually grow into successful versions of themselves who try to live life apart only to realize that they should have been together all along. Both are great movies with some of the landmark Black actors of the era, but for all their similarities, the movies bring entirely different things to the table: Brown Sugar is more comedy; Love & Basketball is more dramedy. The former is about the industry as much as it is about the love story; the latter is all about the love story and the decisions you make because of it.

Really swell stuff and understandably worth mining for content, or at least further inspiration for a love story.

So imagine my surprise as I started watching The Next Dance when it literally opened up in the exact same fashion as Love & Basketball. The boy next door shows up to see his neighbor—the girl next door, natch—dancing, makes friends and then they get into an argument about who should be dancing, resulting in the boy pushing the girl down, giving her a scar for life. The families meet, and they all sort it out, but the girl, Selena, and the boy, Tristian, become best friends as they grow into young adults. 

As Selena’s family falls apart due to her father’s cheating ways, you see her (on several occasions) slip across the backyard to Tristian’s room to sleep on the floor for safety and comfort. Ya know, just like that other movie. 

Selena (played by Danielle Curiel, also known now as DaniLeigh, who last hit our news cycle because of her issues with her child’s father, DaBaby) is a dancer whose mother owns a studio and is preparing for a big, potentially life-saving competition, while Tristian (Jonathan McDaniels, who starred in hits like Vh1’s Hit The Floor and Raven’s Home. I don’t mean that with shade; I enjoyed both of those shows.) is soon-to-be college graduate whose father wants him to go business school at Stanford; he just wants to dance. And I realize that sentence sounds ridiculous—trust me, it is. He’s spent the better part of the last 10-plus years mopping the floor at Selena’s dance studio just to stay close to her and to stay close to dance. 

Same thing happens when the family falls apart, and in this case, Selena ruins the relationship and sabotages their friendship, much like Q in Love & Basketball, because she is struggling to handle her father’s infidelity and financial malfeasance because of it. Because Tristian is hurt, he goes off and tries to live his life but can never get away from the feeling he had dancing with Selena or the love he has for her. And Selena, realizing she messed up, finds her way back to Tristian. I can’t lie, I don’t remember there being a dance-off for his heart, but I was also folding laundry at one point and putting things away and just couldn’t find it in my soul to rewind. There was a dance competition, though, where Tristian showed up, and Selena’s team won and then eventually, they got married. 

The whole time I watched the movie, I was mostly surprised at the audacity of making this movie and jacking so much of it from Love & Basketball. But also, a lot of the plot made no sense, and it was clearly jacking the aforementioned film, so maybe it was just a good time had by some good people who got a check to relive a classic moment in Black film. I don’t know, and I don’t think they do either. What I do know is that The Next Dance is a film that both borrows from a classic and also takes a look at two young folks’ lives as they parlay into the next dance (phase?) of their lives together. Or something. And I suppose it’s cute to see that kind of thing.

All I know is that from here on out, I’ll stop talking about Brown Sugar as Love & Basketball Part B since The Next Dance exists, and it literally was trying to show you exactly what happens when they put down balls and pick up hip-hop…dance.

Bust a move and check it out.

Panama Jackson theGrio.com

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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