When asked to double for Kevin Bacon in Footloose, Peter Tramm was floored. Like many others, he had watched Paramount squirm as it pretended that Jennifer Beals did her own dancing in Flashdance. The controversy held special interest for Tramm. Marine Jahan, Beals’ dance double, is his ex-wife. “Of all the people in L.A., they were calling me,” says Peter, 26. “I couldn’t believe it. Right about that time, Marine was saying, ‘Peter, what should I do? TIME magazine keeps calling me and Paramount says not to talk to them.’ ”
Eventually Marine talked, and the publicity wave broke all the harder for having been dammed up so long. Not wanting a similar embarrassment, the Footloose producers didn’t try to conceal Tramm’s contribution: He is listed in the credits as stunt dancer. But why use a dance double at all? “To do highlights of a moment here or there,” says co-producer Craig Zadan. When hired, Tramm thought he was going to do all Bacon’s dancing, but wound up with just the acrobatic sequences. “For my ego, I would like to have done all of the dancing,” admits Tramm, “but I was happy for Kevin.” Bacon, on the other hand, had resisted using a dance double. “It’s an assault on the actor’s fragile ego,” he says.
Dance movies starring non-dancers are a recent Hollywood innovation. “In the old days you either did it or you didn’t,” says Flashdance choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday. “In Gene Kelly’s time, there wouldn’t be a dance film with the focus on an individual dancer if that person wasn’t doing the dancing.” But a new breed of young directors, typified by Flashdance’s Adrian Lyne, learned their craft creating TV commercials and rock videos. They take a bionic approach to filmmaking. “Young directors are very specific about their needs, and very departmentalized,” Hornaday says. “If they can’t get great acting and brilliant dancing in one person, they’ll invent ways to have it.”
For Jahan, 25, Flashdance led directly to her first credited role—as a stripper in the upcoming film Streets of Fire. She has one line: “Back up, scum bag.” “That’s okay,” Jahan says with a laugh. “I started as a dancing frog in a shopping mall.”
Daughter of a French architect, Marine was raised outside Paris and moved to Los Angeles when she was 18 to study dance. She won a scholarship to the Dupree Dance Academy, where she met Peter in 1977. Soon she found work in commercials and TV specials. “When I decided to stay, I thought, ‘Why not learn to sing and act?’ ” she recalls. “My dream has always been to sing and dance in musicals.”
Longing for the lead role of Alex in Flashdance, Marine tried out unsuccessfully at a casting call. A few weeks later the part went to Beals, but Hornaday soon realized that he would need a trained dancer to double for her. Having worked with Jahan on videos, he asked her to audition. She was planning to leave for Germany in a few days to do a TV special with Suzanne Somers, and her arms felt stiff and heavy from inoculations. At one point during the audition, the black wig on her head flew off. Still, she got the job.
Jahan did virtually all the dancing in Flashdance. “It was way too complicated for Jennifer to know even how to begin,” she says. Delighted at the prospect of two months’ work, Marine never thought to ask for billing until long after her contract was signed; the producers made no commitment. At a preview screening, she sat through all the credits, hoping to see her name. “The film credited the dog and not Marine,” groans Hornaday. Seated nearby, he told her, “I’m sorry, kid. But you were great. They were applauding for you.” She replied, “Yes, but they don’t know it.”
They know it now. The high visibility of Flashdance is a dancer’s dream. “It can open a lot of doors for you,” says Tramm. He is hoping that his far smaller contribution in Footloose might do the same for him. An Air Force brat whose family eventually settled in Lompoc, Calif., Tramm at one point was paying $175 a week for five different acting classes. “Even more than me, Peter wants to be a star,” says Marine. He agrees, noting that dual ambitions strained their two-year marriage, which ended in 1982. “It got to the point of being competitive with each other,” he says. “There are a lot of people who are very happy dancing in commercials and TV specials, but Marine and I both wanted more. That’s one of the things that attracted us to each other, and the same thing tore us apart.”
Peter recently came tantalizingly close to a leading role in Shootout. He remains confident that sooner or later he will be cast as an actor, quitting the chorus forever. “James Cagney was a dancer, and he moved out of that to be thought of as an actor,” Tramm says. “I would like to make that sort of a transition.” Of course, New York and Los Angeles are full of young dancers with similar dreams, but Peter says that’s no way to look at it. “Being a very positive person, I think I’ll get where I want. I never think about the odds. Something like that could drive you crazy.”