Cat Dancers

Dir: Harris Fishman, 2008. Documentary.
Cat Dancers

The only magic I believe in is the magic of documentaries like this. It had the power to reach deep down into my soul and turn on a switch in a room that’s been dark for years. Honestly, it is the most beautiful love story that I have seen to date—a love of life, animals, dance, God, and intimacy.

Ron and Joy Holiday were two childhood friends who set out to make a name for themselves in the dance world, more specifically adagio ballet. Ron’s first few stories of Joy are small and candid, mainly circulating around her Catholic upbringing. One in particular that is essential to their future together comes from Joy visiting a Mother Superior with the uncertainty of whether she should continue her future in dance after college or become a nun. "Go to New York and dance for God," was the answer she received, and it was after that story that I knew this documentary had much in store.

After working to the bone in adagio ballet and reaching an age where its strenuousness proved to be unmanageable, the duo then sought new frontiers in entertainment, featuring exotic performances where a transformational magic act would turn Joy into a black jaguar. It was here that the Cat Dancers were born. The film funnels through their hard work and stamina which granted them and their audience rewards that are eternal in memory and magnificence. It gives a stunning document of various cities and performances that are nothing short of exhilarating.

Expanding in land, routine and cats, the two realized that they needed another hand and started the daunting and near fruitless task of finding a third person for their act. That third person turned out to be Chuck Lizza, a young and handsome circus announcer who soon grew to love his new life with the couple. Over time, his love would turn into a romance that the three shared with secrecy and fearlessness, breaking down barriers not only on stage, but within the walls of their own sanctuary.

The very personal and brave interviews with Ron shift from humorous and lighthearted to just plain heartbreaking. Provided with footage from Ron and other sources, director Harris Fishman built every scene layer by colorful layer, leaving no detail untouched. Aside from the structure of the documentary, the footage from their earlier performances is well restored and is even dissolved and intertwined with recent footage to create marvelous effects. A great amount of footage was also dedicated to the animals they had, as well as the dancers and future cat trainers whom Ron is teaching in present day. The highest reward of this documentary is seeing his spirit of caretaking and dance radiate to his students.

The documentary shifts back and forth between the past and present. Before its conclusion, the disastrous circumstances that changed Ron’s life forever come to the surface. Competition was on the rise in the exotic entertainment world. Acts featuring rare white tigers, such as Siegfried and Roy, became a highly requested criterion for those competing in wild animal performances. The group then adopted their first white tiger, Jupiter, with an unsettling speculation that he might be inbred, and therefore unpredictable in terms of health, personality, and behavior. The tiger took to Chuck and began to star in acts immediately, completing the ethereal and majestic image that the group had long desired. But after events involving Jupiter lead to the fatal and tragic destruction of their union, Ron can only look back with the deepest fondness, stating that no one was as content as he was during his time with these amazing people and cats.

The happiness that comes from Ron’s dream-like reminiscing is so infectious and pure that I don’t believe its power can ever be duplicated or removed. After witnessing it, I have a hunch that it will always be with you. The parental affection that he gave to his animals is also a great example of how all domesticated animals should be brought up and treated. To him, the love one receives from an animal is the truest and most certain kind you can receive. Coming from experience, I’d have to agree. For that reason, and many others, this is a must-see for animal lovers and for those who love expression and romance as well.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Apr 5, 2010 3:30pm
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