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Save the Last Dance directed by Thomas Carter, is a 2001 romantic drama dance film set in inner-city Chicago. The story follows Sara Johnson (Julia Stiles) who after her mother dies in a tragic car accident on the way to her Julliard balet dancing audition. Sara gives up dancing and is forced to move in with her negligent father. She moves into inner-city Chicago, which is predominately black. There she meets Derek Reynolds (Sean Patrick Thomas). He helps her development her talent and they begin to date. Sara encounters a number of problems, both personal and societal, as does Derek.

The first immediate problem that Sara encounters is moving into a area that she is unfamiliar with. She is one of the only white people in the school, so she has trouble fitting in. This problem is solved when she Meet Chenille Reynolds (Kerry Washington) and her brother, Derek. She is able to find a “group” and is able to fit in better, although she still receives confrontations with Nikki (Bianca Lawson) Derek’s ex-girlfriend. 

Sara also faces a personal problem. She has difficulty dancing because she feels that she is somehow responsible for her mother’s death. She is able to solve this problem with help from Derek, who trains with her and encourages her abilities. Sara is able to rediscover her passion for dancing by training with Derek, and so her love for dancing and Derek allows her to move on from her mother’s death.

As Derek and Sara and Derek spend more and more time together, they begin to develop feelings for one another. This is where another problem comes into the movie. Sara is ridiculed by other black girls in her high school, including Nikki, who starts a fight with her. This is because she is “stealing” one of the only “good” black men in the school. Derek is a good student who wants to go to Georgetown Medical School. They are able to overcome this obstacle through sheer willpower and each others’ support. They always are there to support each other through their problems and the pursuit of their dreams.

Another problem that Sara faces is getting into shape and perfecting her dancing skills. She practices dancing and works out with Derek in a variety of places, such as

Abandoned warehouses and school classrooms. As the movie progresses, Sara gains stamina and improves her form. Derek also teaches her new hip hop moves that she can incorporate into her dancing style. She is at first not used to hip hop dancing but Derek helps her and she eventually becomes quite good. She eventually tests her newly found skills and confidence by going to a predominately black nightclub with Derek. She does very well, finally being accepted in the community.

In Last Dance Sara is faced with a multitude of problems: adjusting to a lifestyle and community she is not used to, dating outside her race in a predominately black area, trying to perfect her dancing skills and get accepted into Julliard dancing school, all while trying to overcome her feelings of guilt in regards to her mother’s death. She is able to overcome these problems with love, support, and hard work.

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