Dance is like a force of nature that transcends words and language barriers, much like laughter. Dancing can convey a wide range of emotions whether you are the one doing the dancing or just watching. It has the ability to make a moment or event unforgettable, we feel something special. It’s the one thing we don’t need to learn, we are born with the ability to recognise a rhythm, move to a beat or feel a melody in our souls. Some of us might dance ‘off beat’ occasionally and some might not be very good but we can all do it, even if it’s just a simple two-step. The memory of a special dance can last an entire lifetime and is rarely forgotten.
The right combination of film and dance can produce on screen magic. In fact some film dance scenes are so Iconic, they actually overshadow the film. Have you ever looked back at a classic dance scene fondly and realise you can’t remember much about the actual storyline!? Iconic dance moments can elevate a film, possibly expanding its reach far beyond its regular audience. Here are 5 of the most memorable
I’ll start with an oldie and work my way forward. Saturday Night Fever is a great example . It was released in 1977 to critical acclaim. It had a great lead actor in John Travolta, who actually won an academy award for best actor. It had an amazing soundtrack featuring music from the Bee Gees which is one of the best selling film soundtracks of all time. It dealt with many issues like racial tensions at the time as well as sexual promiscuity in a ‘pre-aids’ world. But despite all that, when you mention ‘Saturday Night Fever’, 99% of people only remember the dance routines. When it comes to dance, this is the era I would have loved to belong to.
The 80’s felt like a renaissance for films with iconic dance scenes. There were so many options in this decade. From flash dance to Breakdance 1&2, Fame and Footloose. Despite these classics, there is one film which became a cultural phenomenon and made a mega star of its lead actor Patrick Swazye (RIP). Dirty Dancing set hearts racing upon its release in 1987 and has remained a firm part of pop culture psyche primarily for two reasons. First having a classic line ‘No one puts baby in the corner’ and secondly, that final dance and that lift. Almost the whole movie is summarised in those final scenes-classic
As a decade, the 90s didn’t quite arrive with the same impact as the 80s. Under the category of ‘dance films’ we had the likes of Tango, Showgirls and the Full Monty which were interesting for different reasons! In steps 90s rap duo Kid ‘n Play to save the day. Their first feature film House Party was one of the first to show that ‘urban’ films could be fun and comedic. The soundtrack was excellent, the choreography was tight but looked natural and effortless and it produced the iconic dance battle scene which introduced us to the kid ‘n play kick step, which has been imitated and replicated many times over the years. Nothing quite matches the original though
After the dialogue heavy, ultra violet debut film Resovoir Dogs, no one expected Quinton Tarantino’s next film to produce an iconic dance scene but that’s exactly what we got with Pulp Fiction. This is John Travolta’s second appearance on this list but it could have very easily been his third (if I had included Grease). I think it’s safe to say that Mr Travolta likes to dance. Following on from the great dance moments in Grease and Saturday Night Fever was never going to be easy but they pulled it off. The film was violent, clever, well made and full of great moments. The dance scene was accompanied by a great soundtrack with a style and flair we hadn’t seen before on film, Travolta and Uma Thurman danced with the heat and intensity a couple who were about to embark on a life long love affair (if you’ve watched the film you’ll know that’s not the case!) The routine was technical but relaxed (no shoes), cool but also slightly uncool and comical, similar to when someone says dance like no one’s watching. Well we were watching and are still watching, 20 yrs later
My final pick features Quinton Tarantino again, this time in front of the camera. From Dusk till Dawn was Robert Rodriguez first big budget movie made specifically for the Hollywood audience rather than the independent, tongue in cheek, high action films he made before, like Desperado with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. It’s the story of two criminal brothers who take a family hostage while trying to cross the border to Mexico. In the third act they hide out in a bar and (**spoiler**) everyone turns to vampires. Yes, this was the storyline for a movie starring George Clooney and Harvey Keitel! Despite the outlandish nature, George and his co stars still managed to put in respectable performances and Tarantino’s writing as usual kept the dialogue interesting and engaging. But despite the fact that people suddenly turn into VAMPIRES, that is not what this film will be remembered for. Right inbetween the normality and madness, there is an intoxicating moment , a routine performed by Salma Hayek that had both the film cast and the audience hypnotized. This is the scene that will keep Dusk till Dawn alive and part of pop culture conversation for many years to come. I dare you to look away!
I’m sure some of you will disagree with my five choices. Feel free to let me know what film dance scenes you think should have been included.