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In the film, Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig plays the titular character who happens to be an apprentice dancer in a professional dance company and later, a choreographer. The movie is sprinkled with a number of scenes which show her dancing on and off stage. But Greta/Frances comes off (at least to my unfamiliar eye) as being rather clumsy and awkward. She does not possess the svelte body of a dancer either.

So, my question is, is Frances not really a good dancer? Was she purposely made to look comical? Or is it Greta Gerwig who is simply not a good dancer?

IMDb's summary reads:

A story that follows a New York woman (who doesn't really have an apartment), apprentices for a dance company (though she's not really a dancer), and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as their possible reality dwindles.

I'm unsure how official this summary is. But if Frances is not really a dancer, how does she get a paying position (even as an apprentice) in a professional dance troupe? Also, as the audience, are we supposed to understand that Frances is not a good dancer based on her movements or is there any dialogue to reinforce this attribute?

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I didn't make it through the entire movie, but what I did see made clear that Frances is supposed to be an apprentice in a professional company who gets paid to teach classes to children. But no one who dances like Greta Gerwig could get hired to do that in New York. The character is not supposed to be particularly successful--she has trouble getting extra hours at the company, and her friends don't seem impressed when she demonstrates some dance steps. But it still didn't really make sense. So I can only conclude that the writer/director didn't understand the professional dance world, or the –  Ocelot Carter Jan 22 at 22:13
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There are several intentional reasons why Frances is not shown to be a good dancer outside of simply not bothering to cast a good dancer in the role. I divide these into in-universe reasons and storytelling reasons.

In-Universe:

  • At 27, Frances is at least six years into a failed career as a dancer. She is teaching at a junior level instead of doing the intense practice necessary for being a top-of-the-line dancer. Maybe she was more skillful when she managed to join the company, but since then her skills have slipped while others outpaced her.
  • When Frances does become a full-fledged choreographer, she does not work with ballet, the medium most associated with exceptional grace, svelteness, etc. Modern and jazz dancers work with a broader palette of motion, including some awkward movements, and have less stringent requirements for body types.
  • During many of the moments that Frances' dances, she's inebriated or dancing purely for her own sake. Her form is understandably loose.

Storytelling:

  • The film is funnier and more moving if the audience knows that Frances' dreams are doomed far before she does.
  • Many of the dancing moments are character-building. Frances isn't perfect, controlled and svelte. She's overenthusiastic and awkward. Showing her as a perfect dancer wouldn't move the film forward.
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