A Documentary reviewed by: Sarah Burns
Unleashed! A dog dancing story was an incredible step in the right direction to introducing canine freestyle dancing to the dog-loving Vancouver community. The documentary takes the viewer through the story of a group of amateur dog dancers while they come together to produce a theatrical dog dancing live performance. A group of film directors followed along for the majority of the production, and by doing so they were able to catch sentimental, challenging and great moments through the creation of this theatrical play.
The director, producer and dog dancer in Unleashed!, Ray Underwood, a canine freestyler extraordinaire is one of the founders of dog dancing in North America. He is a perfectionist and rightly so. He took a ‘Cirque du Soleil’ idea, mixed in a few professional kite flyers, added in some incredible dog dancing choreography and wound up with a fantastic dog dancing production. When asked why he chose such a random theme of kite flying as the dark and mysterious culprit in the storyline, he answered very simply, “Well my son is a fantastic kite flyer, and we just so happened to know a few more professional kite flyers.” His impeccable quirkiness shines brightly through this documentary.
Going back a few years, Underwood, his wife Shannon, and a small group of dog dancers came together in 1999 to form Paws2Dance. This dedicated dog dancing club is based in Langley, British Columbia and is still going strong, and hoping to produce many more plays in the future.
Seeing as how dog dancing is not as popular to the majority of the world right now, and Paws2Dance is a relatively new club, a lot of fundraising was needed for this first theatrical dog dancing to exist. From garage and baking sales, selling gold for cash, and dog food sponsors, these talented and enthusiastic individuals were able to achieve their twenty-five thousand dollar goal and beyond!
As the dancers are introduced throughout the documentary one by one with their beloved furry dancing companions, each speaks candidly about how their closest friends and family were concerned for their sanity when starting up this intriguing hobby. Confident in their new passion, they danced on, and any red flags from loved ones eventually ceased.
Annette with her two furry dancers Jake and Odie, Lin and Corabel, Gail and Pepsi are just a few of the dancers that were highlighted in the film. We caught glimpses into their lives, and also their devoted commitment to life, their dog, and unusual yet rewarding hobby. From Odie’s cancer diagnosis to Lin’s husband’s passing, each cast member had their tribulations, and yet through their inspiring strength, they kept on. Trusting Underwood and his brilliant production idea, they allowed themselves to literally dance away their worries. Taping into their personal lives during Unleashed! shined a light to the human side of the wacky world of dog dancing, warming my heart in the process. I was left with a feeling of knowing each of the cast members as if they were dear friends or family.
This documentary convinced me that this is could very well be the newest hobby amongst animal lovers. Dog dancing is a perfect way to get some exercise, spend time with your beloved dog and have some good ol’ fashioned fun! In fact, it would not surprise me if dog dancing is loved by people other than devoted dog fans, as it can be delightfully entertaining.
During the Q&A after the documentary viewing, the production team, cast members and Underwood were chatting excitedly about getting Unleashed! out to the public through hubs such as Netflix. I am eagerly awaiting this, as I know quite a few people who would love to watch it!
Once the credits started rolling I was so captivated that I unknowingly wondered if I had gone crazy for dog dancing as well!