Teaching Students About Flashdance Cast: A Creative Approach to Film History


Teaching film history to students can be an engaging and educational experience when using the right approach. One such way is by exploring the cast of iconic films like Flashdance, a 1983 classic that won positive reviews and gained a loyal following. Inspired by its thrilling musical score, energetic dance scenes, and unforgettable characters, studying the Flashdance cast offers students an opportunity to delve into the movie’s influence on pop culture and appreciate the diverse talents of its cast members. In this article, we will discuss how educators can teach their students about the Flashdance cast and inspire a love for film history.

Introducing Flashdance

Begin your lesson by introducing students to Flashdance’s plot, themes, and cultural impact. The film follows young welder and aspiring dancer Alex Owens (played by Jennifer Beals) as she navigates her dreams of attending a prestigious dance academy. Set in Pittsburgh, Flashdance carries themes of determination, resilience, and self-expression commonly associated with the early 1980s period. The film’s success led to a considerable influence on fashion trends and popular music; it even spawned a hit soundtrack album featuring memorable tracks like “Flashdance… What a Feeling,” sung by Irene Cara.

Exploring the Cast Members

Next, explore each main cast member relevant to your lesson plan. The primary focus should be on the actress who portrayed Alex Owens – Jennifer Beals. Discuss Beals’ impressive background spanning from her childhood in Chicago to her breakthrough role in Flashdance that catapulted her to stardom. Educate your students about Beals’ successful acting career following this iconic role, including her work in television series such as The L Word.

In addition to Jennifer Beals, consider discussing other notable Flashdance cast members:

– Michael Nouri as Nick Hurley: As Alex’s boss at the steel mill factory and eventual love interest, Nouri’s acting career offers students another perspective on Flashdance.

– Lilia Skala as Hanna Long: A retired ballerina who mentors Alex and encourages her to pursue her dreams. Skala’s inspiring journey as a European immigrant and accomplished actress can help students understand the importance of determination, a crucial theme of Flashdance.

– Cynthia Rhodes as Tina Tech: Another featured dancer in the movie, Rhodes’ career can introduce students to film history by discussing her roles in other popular dance movies like Dirty Dancing and Staying Alive.

Tying in the Broader Context

To further engage students in their understanding of Flashdance’s context and legacy, integrate the following activities into your lessons:

1. Examine and discuss 1980s pop culture: Explore how Flashdance influenced fashion, style, and even dance trends. This will help students gain a broader understanding of the culture during that time.

2. Dance workshops: Engage students with practical activities such as dance workshops featuring moves from the film led by professional instructors or choreographers.

3. Film history research projects: Encourage individual or group projects where students research different aspects of 1980s films or other influential movies of that era.


Teaching students about the Flashdance cast presents not only an opportunity to analyze an iconic movie but also helps students develop an appreciation for diverse talents, themes, and cultural influences within film history. By engaging students with creative methods involving practical activities and contextual research, educators can foster an intricate understanding of Flashdance’s impact on society and cinema, inspiring a passion for film history among future generations.