There's probably a formula out there for sappy made-for-TV movies. Add one of each of the following: spunky hero/heroine, tragic (but photogenic) disease, loving family/friends, and not-too-horrible relationship problem. Cast with fresh-faced, earnest unknowns, mix in a soundtrack featuring sugary pop music, and voila! Instant tear-jerker. Even though it got a minor theatrical release outside the U.S. before coming to Showtime, A Time for Dancing fits firmly into this genre, with its determinedly heart-warming tale of a young dancer whose shining future is abruptly threatened by illness, and who is forced to take stock of what really matters in her life.
The story is solidly predictable; while the description on the back of the case tries to be cagey about the "unexpected news" that derails dance student Jules' fast-track to admission to Juilliard, there are sure to be few viewers who don't figure out what's coming after the first of several hints that are about as subtle as a two-by-four. The cast is peopled by basic warm bodies who get through their lines as competently as can be expected, considering the extremely hokey script. Peter Coyote gets front-cover billing as the only "name" actor of any stripe in the film, but he really has a minimal role in the film, with only brief screen time as Jules' father.
A Time for Dancing has one saving grace that will make it worth watching for at least a segment of the audience, and that's the dance sequences. While I'm no dance connoisseur, the rehearsal and performance scenes here, of which there are plenty, look very authentic; the filmmakers seem to have gotten genuine dancers to fill in the secondary and "extras" spots in the film. So viewers who are dancers, or who enjoy the world of dance, will probably find some elements to their liking in the film, both in the dance segments themselves and in the overall plot, as it deals mainly with Jules' attempt to make it into Juilliard.
From what I've written above, A Time for Dancing comes across as a weak, generic piece of filmmaking... and that's true to a substantial degree. This is pretty tame stuff. But to its credit, A Time for Dancing is watchable. Except for the last seven minutes of the film (which is hideously sappy and hopelessly cheesy... someone should have forced the director to leave it on the cutting-room floor, as it's also totally unnecessary), A Time for Dancing has a sort of cheerful enthusiasm to it that makes it better than many of its peers in the tearjerker-TV-movie category.
A Time for Dancing appears in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio that I think is the correct ratio, although I don't know that for a fact. In any case, it doesn't show any obvious panning or cropping. The image quality is so-so; the colors are slightly muted but generally natural-looking, and the picture is fairly soft, with a moderate amount of noise and edge enhancement.
The soundtrack comes in at a shade below average. During dialogue-only scenes, the sound is a bit flat but otherwise satisfactory, but whenever there's any music in the film (as there often is, in any of the dance scenes), the volume rises too high, and the sound becomes slightly muffled.
We get a photo gallery and an advertisement for an assortment of dance-related magazines. That's it.
If you love dancing, then A Time for Dancing is probably worth a rental on the basis of its subject matter. If you're just looking for a movie on its own merits, it's a lot more debatable, as the film is a pretty standard, sappy made-for-TV movie. Rent it.