Shall We Dance? (1996 film)

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Shall We Dance?
Shall We Dansu.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
JapaneseShall we ダンス?
HepburnSharu wi Dansu?
Directed byMasayuki Suo
Produced by
  • Yasuyoshi Tokuma
  • Yasushi Urushido
  • Shigeru Ono
  • Kazuhiro Igarashi[1]
Screenplay byMasayuki Suo[1]
Music byYoshikazu Suo[1]
CinematographyNaoki Kayano[1]
Edited byJunichi Kikuchi[1]
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • 27 January 1996 (1996-01-27) (Japan)
Running time
136 minutes[1]
Box office¥2.72 billion (Japan)
$43 million (worldwide)

Shall We Dance? (Japanese: Shall we ダンス?, Hepburn: Sharu wi Dansu?) is a 1996 Japanese romantic comedy-drama film directed by Masayuki Suo. Its title refers to the song "Shall We Dance?" which comes from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. It inspired the 2004 English-language remake of the same name.


The film begins with a close-up of the inscription above the stage in the ballroom of the Blackpool Tower: "Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear", from the poem Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. As the camera pans around the ballroom giving a view of the dancers, a voice-over explains that in Japan, ballroom dancing is treated with suspicion.

Successful salaryman Shohei Sugiyama (Kōji Yakusho) has a house in the suburbs, a devoted wife, Masako (Hideko Hara), and a teenage daughter, Chikage (Ayano Nakamura), and works as an accountant for a firm in Tokyo. Despite these external signs of success, however, Shohei begins to feel as if his life has lost direction and meaning and falls into depression.

One night, while coming home on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, he spots a beautiful woman with a melancholy expression looking out from a window in a dance studio: Mai Kishikawa (Tamiyo Kusakari), a well-known figure on the Western ballroom dance circuit. Becoming infatuated with her, he decides to take lessons in order to get to know her better.

Shohei's life changes once his classes begin. Rather than Mai, his teacher is Tamako Tamura (Reiko Kusamura), who becomes an important mentor to him. He meets his classmates: Tōkichi Hattori (Yu Tokui) who joined to impress his wife, and Masahiro Tanaka (Hiromasa Taguchi) who joined to lose weight. He also meets Toyoko Takahashi (Eriko Watanabe), another student. He further discovers that one of his colleagues from work, Tomio Aoki (Naoto Takenaka), frequents the dance studio. Tomio, who is balding and mocked at work for his rigid ways, is revealed to be secretly a long-haired (via a wig) ballroom dancer. Though distant from her, the classes increase his infatuation for Mai. His secret thus becomes twofold: not only must he hide the lessons from his wife, he must also hide them from his friends and colleagues as it is considered embarrassing according to traditional Japanese customs to participate in Western ballroom dance.

Later, after being rebuffed by Mai, Shohei discovers to his surprise that his passion for ballroom dance outweighs his infatuation with her. Indeed, dancing, rather than Mai, gives Shohei the meaning in life that he was looking for.

Masako, noticing his odd behavior, believes he is having an affair, prompting her to hire a private detective to follow him. Meanwhile, along with his classmates, Shohei enters an amateur competition, only to find out that his wife, having finally learned the truth from the detective (who has now become a devoted fan of ballroom dancing), is in the audience. Surprised by this, he stumbles and nearly knocks his dance partner to the floor. Though he successfully catches her, he accidentally rips the skirt of her dress off. Both leave the contest, later learning that Tomio won. When Tomio is ridiculed at work after his colleagues read of his success in the newspaper, Shohei stands up and tells them not to mock something they don't understand.

At home, Shohei's wife tries to understand her husband's new passion by asking him to teach her to dance as well. He is invited to a farewell party for Mai, who is leaving for Blackpool. At the party, Mai joins him to dance, asking him "Shall we dance?"



Shall We Dance? was released on January 27, 1996 in Japan where it was distributed by Toho.[1] It was released in the United States by Miramax.[1] The Miramax version was cut to 118 minutes and released on July 4, 1997.[1]


Box office[edit]

In Japan, it earned a distribution income (rentals) of ¥1.6 billion in 1996, making it the second top-grossing Japanese film of the year, after Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.[2] Shall We Dance? grossed a total Japanese box office revenue of ¥2.72 billion[3] ($25 million).[4]

The film performed strongly in American theaters, earning $9.7 million during its US release.[5] Outside of the United States, the film grossed $33,287,618 internationally in other territories (including Japan),[6] for a worldwide total of $43 million.

Critical response[edit]

Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 91% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 34 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Elegantly told by director Masayuki Suo and warmly performed, Shall We Dance? is a delightful celebration of stepping out of one's comfort zone and cutting a rug."[7] Roger Ebert awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, stating in the Chicago Sun Times that Shall We Dance? is "one of the more completely entertaining movies I've seen in a while—a well-crafted character study that, like a Hollywood movie with a skillful script, manipulates us but makes us like it."[8] Critic Paul Tatara noted that "It isn't really fair to suggest that the movie's main subject is dance, though. As much as anything else, it's about the healing powers (and poetry) of simple self-expression."[9]


At the Japanese Academy Awards it won 14 awards: Best Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Lighting, Best Music Score, Best Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Newcomer of the Year.

The National Board of Review gave it the award for Best Foreign Language Film.[1]

Foreign remakes[edit]

Shall We Dance? was remade in English by Miramax in 2004 as Shall We Dance?,[1] starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the Yakusho and Kusakari roles respectively.[1] The 2004 remake itself inspired another foreign remake. In 2006, an Egyptian film titled Let's Dance (Egyptian Arabic: ما تيجي نرقص‎, romanized: Mah teegy nor'os) was released, starring Yousra in Richard Gere's role.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Goldstein-Gidoni, Ofra; Daliot-Bul, Michal (March 2002). "'Shall We Dansu?': Dancing with the 'West' in contemporary Japan". Japan Forum. 14 (1): 63–75. doi:10.1080/09555800120109032. OCLC 89180638. S2CID 144882783.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Galbraith IV 2008, p. 393.
  2. ^ "1996年(1月~12月)". Eiren. Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  3. ^ "邦画興行収入ランキング". SF MOVIE DataBank. General Works. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Official exchange rate (LCU per US$, period average) - Japan". World Bank. 1996. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
  5. ^ Balio, Tino (2010). The Foreign Film Renaissance on American Screens, 1946–1973. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 304. ISBN 9780299247935.
  6. ^ "Shall We Dansu? (Shall We Dance?) (1997)". JP's Box Office. Retrieved 1 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Shall We Dance? (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (1997-07-18). "Shall We Dance?". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-08-11.
  9. ^ Tatara, Paul (1997-07-19). "'Shall We Dance' a graceful tale of middle-age yearnings". CNN. Retrieved 2008-08-11.


External links[edit]