Reel Toronto: Take the Lead
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Reel Toronto: Take the Lead

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

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Let’s get this straight right off the bat: Take the Lead is not a very original movie. It is not, for example, the first movie ever in which a well-to-do type swoops into an urban classroom and teaches the young street kids therein about the world and opportunities that lie beyond, expanding their horizons and improving their lives. It does, however, have Antonio Banderas as a suave ballroom dance teacher, so there’s that.

Yes, it’s one of those “inspired by a true story” flicks which, in this case, means Banderas volunteers to teach his upper-class kind of dancing to a bunch of New York City kids, who naturally love more of that hip hop kind of stuff. Life lessons are learned from one another, yada yada yada, climactic dance competition, yada yada yada, not actually filmed in New York City, yada yada yada.

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Not surprisingly, the film opens with dancing! Yes, here is the elegant, tuxedoed Mr. Banderas doing the ballroom thing.

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This particular ballroom is the rather lovely one at the Royal York.

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Skipping way to the end of the movie, if you don’t mind, the finale takes place at this ballroom. It’s the shuttered (and possibly haunted!) Crystal Ballroom, located on the upper floors of the hotel.

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Not that interior and exterior shots always match, but we do get a shot of the hotel “acting” as the fictional Beaumont Hotel.

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There’s some more dancing here, at St. Lawrence Hall.

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And the very opening, inter-cutting with the ballroom scene, features the kids doing their hipping and hopping at a school dance. It looks like the gym is the distinctive one at Eastminister United Church, also seen in Honey.

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So, then we’ve got our “urban” school.

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As you can see here, it’s actually the University of Toronto Schools (UTS) at Bloor and Spadina.

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Here, you might recognize Degrassi alum Lauren Collins, who has a prominent role in the film.

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Other school interiors were shot at Danforth Tech and Orde Street Public School.

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At the film’s start, we find Mr. Banderas cycling the mean streets of the city.

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Then he encounters some future students vandalizing a car…

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…on Yonge Street, across from the Eaton Centre. You can even see The Edge’s old broadcast space there.

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This is pretty cool: the kids practice dancing in an impressive industrial space. Apparently it was shot at the old Tower Automotive factory in the Junction.

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An admittedly less interesting industrial space is this one on Cherry Street. It belongs to the company formerly known as Turtle Island and now as the even friendlier Green For Life.

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Most of the New York City shots are those kind of stock shots you see in any generic production. We actually thought this might be one of them but, despite the fire escape and other New York-esque trappings, this is actually here, on Parliament Street.

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Not at all surprisingly, they also shot down at Lower Bay station…

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…and even used the interior of one of our old subway trains.

Take the Lead was not a huge hit but that’s okay. Along with Honey and Glitter it’s still a reminder that for a time we were the place to be for shooting urban, dance-themed movies, right? Respect.