A far cry from war or even sports, "Take the Lead" focuses on dancing and the difficulties and life lessons learned by young students in the South Bronx, NY. In Take the Lead, Pierre, a European dancer specializing in the art of ballroom dance, sets out to change a group of wayward high school students into elite dancers. He initially wins over the students with a sultry interpretation of the Tango. He also strives to give them life lessons in determining their true destinies and even self-control.
Although a theme of this type has been done before in the movies, this film was the first to use hip-hop music and culture as its primary genre. It was obvious that the intent of this film was to grab the attention of young, urban teenagers by using catchy rhythms, songs sung by popular artists, and the latest athletic, hip-hop dances. Even with all of the hip-hop themes, the film also has a jazz-pop undertone and attempts to blend the two genres through music and dance.
In addition to music and dance, this film has a few “sub-plots”:
There is a budding romance between LaRhette and Rock, two students who share a common background of family dysfunction and gang-filled neighborhoods. Their relationship starts out with lots of arguing and hostility, but eventually turns into a close, respectful bond.
An overweight student battles self-image issues and ends up going to her cotillion with a rich friend, much to the shock of her mother.
There is also the cliché hard-nose high school Principal, who, after much objection, reluctantly agrees to allow Pierre to teach dance principles at the high school. The Principal eventually goes from highly-opposed to a huge supporter.
The film also explores various aspects of teamwork:
Although there was much opposition at the beginning, Pierre and the High School Principal eventually work as a team to ensure that the students attend class and continue to excel.
- Pierre also teams up with the students by gaining their trust, forming bonds, and guiding them at each class.
LaRhette and Rock also team up together, what started out as an extremely volatile relationship turned into a supportive one where they encouraged each other to succeed.
Mr. Temple, one of the high school teachers, remained skeptical of the dance program because he felt that it was a waste of money. As a result, Pierre meets with the parent-teacher association and convinces them to let the program remain because of the principles of respect and TEAMWORK that dancing was teaching the students.