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Hope Dances – Movie Review | Dance Parent 101

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GENRES: Family Film/Dance/Sport
BEST AGES FOR: 6 and up

Hope Dances – Quick Synopsis?

The movie Hope Dances is about a young dancer who has to choose between her passions for dance and softball whilst navigating parent and friend relationships for the chance to secure the coveted role of Clara in the Nutcracker ballet.

Hope Dances – What is the movie really about?

Hope Dances is a sweet dance movie that tackles a multitude of dramas that are occurring in Hopes’ life. The narrative is basically that Hope at 11 years old is at a crossroads and needs to choose between her two passions dance and softball. Once the decision is made she then has to deal with the fallout that occurs from her decision as well as the commitment she has now made to pursue her dream.

Not only does Hop have to deal with her parent’s agenda’s which involves her mom pushing her to be a pro ballerina, while her dad on the other hand is coaxing her towards a pro softball career, she also has to work out which she personally likes best. On the sidelines, Hope is also dealing with the intricacies of maintaining friendships and making new ones that involve delicately navigating when you are better than others, and making new friends whilst keeping old ones. In a twist of fate, her best friend is in an accident and Hope needs to choose between leaving her friend behind and pursuing her dream. On top of all of this Hope still needs to work towards becoming Clara in the Nutcracker and it is at this stage that she is mentored by her favorite professional ballerina giving her that extra edge to reach her dreams.

Dance Parent 101 Review of Hope Dances – What we thought about the movie?

We love Hope Dances as a dance genre family movie. It isn’t a big-budget film and was all locally filmed and produced in Santa Cruz, CA, and that is what keeps it authentic! I love that all the kids in the movie are from local dance and ballet schools and if you check into where they are now, most of them are still dancing and chiseling away at their craft! An added bonus is when you have a professional dancer like Sasha De Sola in the cast, you can be guaranteed that the technique and standard of dance will shine! We really like how all the kids in the movie are dealing with problems other kids their age who dance or do sport might actually have to deal with. There are no inappropriate boyfriend dramas, there is jealousy and competition but not in a super nasty, bullying way – or at least it isn’t made into a central theme in the movie. There is also no emphasis on smartphones and screens which is a breath of fresh air as well! The movie tries to focus on family and friend relationships and how to navigate those. I personally loved Hope’s grandmother and how she takes Hope away on a road trip to help give her space and time away to think about what she wanted to do. There are lots of little parts of the movie like this, which other directors might have thought were trivial, such as mom and dad starting dance lessons together, Hope helping Kayla pay for her dance lessons with a lemonade stand etc… but I feel they all add to creating a complete story of all the things that affect Hope and her life – you get the whole picture and not just little snippets that you need to piece together.

There are however a lot of twists and turns in this movie that are not always authentic but try to add a little more action and excitement into the mix such as the method in which Hope ends up being transported to the recital at the end of the movie, but in saying that, this is a movie and movies are meant to entertain and so the twists help create more tension and interest.

One thing I do disagree with is the all-or-nothing perspective the movie takes – which ultimately is needed for the story, and in real life is a great point of discussion for carers of children to talk about together as well as parents with their dancers. In this movie, Hope had to choose at the age of 11 her future. I one hundred percent believe that you need to be committed to pursue a career in ballet and that this should be your priority if you are serious. In saying that, Hope was increasing both her ballet and softball training at the same time – which was of course was a road to disaster. In reality, if she loved softball the opportunity for her to keep playing at least for a little while longer could have still been there – but for fun and to let off steam and not at the level her father was trying to get her to attain, it was all or nothing! Her parent’s agendas for her to be the best at their preferred passion got in the way of Hope being able to keep doing both. Dancers so often lose themselves in their craft and so having another hobby and love can be cathartic and a way to clear their head in another world and perspective of thinking.

Overall, this is a lovely family-friendly movie that I would recommend any young person interested in dance watch, especially one on the cusp of deciding whether to fully commit to one passion as it can help to guide deep discussion between dancers and their carers, as well as provide an opportunity to be entertained and bond over an interesting story.

What Age is Hope Dances best for?

The film is rated G for general viewing. Having said that although there isn’t anything in the movie that I would suggest goes against that rating, there is a lot of talking and slower sections so most young kids will not sit through the entire movie. My youngest daughter started watching this when she was four turning five. She like many others this age she was happy to sit and watch the story unfold even in the slower parts where the intricacies of the relationships between Hope, her parents, and friends occur. Most younger children however will not want to do this.

As a rule of thumb, I usually say the age of the main characters is around the best age for the children watching, and I do believe this to be the case for understanding everything that happens in the movie, but my now six year old still loves watching this from beginning to end. The dancing scenes are plentiful throughout, but I think she also enjoys all the scenes that include family and friends as these are obviously familiar themes for her.

My six-year-old daughter absolutely loves this movie and I have lost count of how many times she has watched it now. She is currently in love with all movies dance and gymnastics and even though there is a lot of talking in this one, it doesn’t have many places where she gets scared of what is going to happen next (she hid behind the couch when Hope walks in a dance studio she shouldn’t have been in for example) My eleven-year-old (who is the same age as the character in the movie) enjoys watching it as well,

Who are the dancers in the movie?

AvaRose Dillon
AvaRose Dillon plays the main character of Hope Douglas. She was in 5th grade and 11 years old when she filmed this movie. I wasn’t able to find out much information about Ava, but at the time of writing this, she was training with the Texas Ballet Theatre and had attended several prestigious summer ballet intensives such as the ABT summer intensive. You can check out her instagram page here.

Sasha De Sola
Sasha is such a beautiful dancer and you can see she is really committed to her role of Natasha in this film although sadly I can’t find any mention of Hope Dances on her own website or even on her Instagram page?? When the movie was made in 2017 Sasha was a soloist with the San Francisco Ballet, and in that same year was promoted to Principal Dancer. She was born in Florida and attended the Kirov Academy of Ballet. She became an apprentice with the company in 2006, joining the company in the corps de ballet in 2007. For a full rundown about Sasha head to her website

Elaina Greenawalt
Elaina is the movie plays Dani, both Hopes friend and competitor, whom Hope is compared to throughout the movie in the dance studio. She has since acted in two other movies Jake and Joan (2015) and Healing Yesteryear (2019). Elaina Trained in Ballet in San Rafael CA and had also played the part of Clara previously in the Nutcracker prior to filming Hope Dances.

Jenevive Crosset
Jenevive plays the competitive dancer at the new studio Hope attends in the hope of becoming a better dancer. Jenevive’s character challenges Hope to an adding on competition sticking a triple pirouette and then giving Hope a huge glare asking her to beat that! Jenevive has put a few videos on her Youtube channel you can view here. Jenevive was 13 years old when making the movie and had only been dancing for five years! You can read a little more about her on the Hope Dances Face Book page here.

Massimo Ginella
Massimo was one of the boy dances in the studio scenes as well as in the Nutcracker ballet scenes of the movie! He trains with The Studio of Classical Ballet in Santa Cruz, CA. Since being in the movie he continued with ballet and recently earned a full scholarship to the University of Utah Ballet Department Summer IntensiveProgram; a scholarship to the San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Program; the Juilliard School Summer Dance Program and an acceptance to the American Ballet Theatre virtual summer program. (Info from

Gianna Gularte
Gianna Gularte plays Hopes best friend Kayla in the movie. In the film, her dancing skills are less than stellar which adds another dimension to the movie of how to deal with being better than your friends. But if you watch the following video posted of Gularte at YAGP by Dancenter or even take a look at the gallery of photos for sale for the YAGP you can see that Gianna was either playing down her skills or has continued with her love of dance and improved!

For a look at the whole cast go to the IMDB database here.

Who is the choreographer for the film Hope Dances?

Nadia Hinds choreographed the movie Hope Dances.

Nadia began dancing at the age of 7 at The Studio of Classical Ballet, under the direction of Robert Kelley and Diane Cypher, and No Limits, under the direction of Athena Knight and Tisha Nusbaum. In Highschool, she trained with Teen Dance Company in San Jose and The Dance Company of San Francisco. She attended Cabrillo College as a dance major, before deferring to study a more commercial style of dance on scholarship at the Edge Dance and Performing Arts Center in Hollywood, Ca.

After graduating from the Scholarship program, Nadia returned to Santa Cruz to pursue both dance and teaching. She has taught for Motion Pacific, Kids on Broadway, Santa Cruz Dance Company, No Limits, Steps Dance Studio, Little People’s Theater, SLV High School, Scott’s Valley High School, Pacific Arts Complex, NorCal Dance Arts, and Freedom Blvd Dance Company.

Interesting Facts About Hope Dances?

  1. Andrew Dillon directed the film and is AvaRose’s (who plays the main character Hope) Dad!
  2. Ava’s Mom Lachelle and her sisters Zennia and Gabriella also have minor roles in the movie!
  3. Andrew Dillon was once an NCAA Division 1 Gymnastics Champion at the University of Illinois in 1989!
  4. Avarose once had a virus that presented with symptoms similar to Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and her family was prepared for the worst until tests proved it was only a virus.
  5. The movie was filmed in the Santa Cruz area, California in the US.
  6. All of the kids who are dancers in the film were sourced from local dance schools – over 650 auditioned!

Where can you watch Hope Dances?

We watch Hope Dances for free as part of my Amazon prime membership. I get access to Prime Video which includes 100’s of movies you can watch for free as well as the option to rent and purchase them.