Shall We Dance? (1996 film)

Last updated
Shall We Dance?
Shall We Dansu.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
Japanese Shall we ダンス?
Hepburn Sharu wi Dansu?
Directed by Masayuki Suo
Produced by
  • Yasuyoshi Tokuma
  • Yasushi Urushido
  • Shigeru Ono
  • Kazuhiro Igarashi [1]
Screenplay byMasayuki Suo [1]
Music by Yoshikazu Suo [1]
CinematographyNaoki Kayano [1]
Edited byJunichi Kikuchi [1]
Distributed by Toho
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

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

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 whilea 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

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

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Kōji Yakusho Japanese actor

Kōji Hashimoto, known professionally as Kōji Yakusho, is a Japanese actor.

Masayuki Suo Japanese film director (born 1956)

Masayuki Suo is a Japanese film director. He is best known for his two Japan Academy Prize-winning films, 1992's Sumo Do, Sumo Don't and 1996's Shall We Dance?.

<i>Early Spring</i> (1956 film) Japanese film

Early Spring is a 1956 film by Yasujirō Ozu about a married salaryman who escapes the monotony of married life and his work at a fire brick manufacturing company by beginning an affair with a fellow office worker. The film also deals with the hardships of the salaryman lifestyle. "I wanted," Ozu said, "to portray what you might call the pathos of the white-collar life."

<i>Shall We Dance?</i> (2004 film) 2004 romantic comedy movie by Peter Chelsom

Shall We Dance? is a 2004 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Peter Chelsom and starring Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez, and Susan Sarandon. It is a remake of the 1996 Japanese film of the same name.

Misa Shimizu is a Japanese actress. She made her screen debut by winning the heroine audition for 1987 film Shōnan Bōsōzoku. She starred in NHK's morning drama series Seishun Kazoku in 1989. She portrayed Keiko, the female protagonist, in Palme d'Or winning The Eel directed by Shohei Imamura. She also makes regular appearances in Masayuki Suo's films. She won the award for best actress at the 17th Hochi Film Award for Okoge, Sumo Do, Sumo Don't, Future Memories: Last Christmas.

Tamiyo Kusakari is a Japanese actress and former ballet dancer. In 1997 her portrayal of Mai Kishikawa in Shall We Dance? won a Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

<i>The Eel</i> (film) 1997 film directed by Shōhei Imamura

The Eel is a 1997 film directed by Shohei Imamura and starring Kōji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, and Akira Emoto. The film is loosely based on the novel On Parole by celebrated author Akira Yoshimura, combined with elements from the director's 1966 film The Pornographers. It shared the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival with Taste of Cherry. It also won the 1998 Kinema Junpo Award for Best Film of the Year.

The 2nd Florida Film Critics Circle Awards honoured the best in film for 1997.

The 10th Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, given on 1 March 1998, honored the finest achievements in 1997 filmmaking.

<i>Warm Water Under a Red Bridge</i> 2001 film

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge is a 2001 Japanese film by director Shōhei Imamura. This was Imamura's last feature film. It was entered into the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.

Blackpool Dance Festival

The 8-day Blackpool Dance Festival is the world's first and most famous annual ballroom dance competition of international significance, held in the Empress Ballroom at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, England since 1920. It is also the largest ballroom competition: in 2013, 2953 couples from 60 countries took part in the festival.

<i>I Just Didnt Do It</i> 2007 film by Masayuki Suo

I Just Didn't Do It is a 2007 Japanese film directed by Masayuki Suo, starring Ryo Kase, Asaka Seto and Kōji Yakusho.

<i>My Secret Cache</i> 1997 Japanese film directed by Shinobu Yaguchi

My Secret Cache is a 1997 award - winning Japanese film. Its original Japanese title is Himitsu no hanazono (『ひみつの花園』). It was directed by Shinobu Yaguchi.

<i>Sumo Do, Sumo Dont</i> 1992 Japanese film directed by Masayuki Suo

Sumo Do, Sumo Don't is a 1992 Japanese film directed by Masayuki Suo. It was chosen as Best Film at the Japan Academy Prize ceremony. It is one of the few notable depictions of sumo in film.

Masahiro Motoki is a Japanese actor. He portrayed protagonist Daigo Kobayashi in Departures, which won the 81st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. His performance earned him the Award for Best Actor at the 2009 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, at the 3rd Asian Film Awards and at the 32nd Japan Academy Prize.

Reiko Kusamura (草村礼子) is a Japanese actress. She won the award for best supporting actress at the 18th Yokohama Film Festival for Shall We Dance?

<i>A Terminal Trust</i> 2012 Japanese film directed by Masayuki Suo

A Terminal Trust is a 2012 Japanese drama film directed by Masayuki Suo and starring Tamiyo Kusakari, Kōji Yakusho, Tadanobu Asano and Takao Osawa. It is Suo's first fiction film since I Just Didn't Do It (2007).

The 18th Yokohama Film Festival (第18回ヨコハマ映画祭) was held on 2 February 1997 in Kannai Hall, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

<i>Lady Maiko</i> 2014 Japanese film directed by Masayuki Suo

Lady Maiko is a 2014 Japanese musical comedy film written and directed by Masayuki Suo, starring Mone Kamishiraishi, Hiroki Hasegawa, and Sumiko Fuji. It screened in competition at the 2014 Shanghai International Film Festival on June 16, 2014. It was released in Japan on September 13, 2014.

Ayano Nakamura was born October 23, 1980 in Japan. She began as child actress in the late 90s. she is mostly known from "Shall We Dance?" and "Blue".


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 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.