We’re talking about films where dancing — not accompanied by songs that move the story forward — is an essential part of the plot. And, while these movies are technically grounded in reality, the dance element always adds a little silliness that requires a certain suspension of disbelief. So, put on your leotards and start warming up for 10 things that can only happen in dance movies.
Movie: Dirty Dancing
Nobody puts Baby in the corner, but they might put her in the hospital. Sure, she and Johnny trained all summer to get that epic lift just right, but the other guests at Kellerman’s didn’t know that. All they saw was the quiet girl with frizzy hair dancing with a staff member (who had just gotten fired) and nearly plunging to her death. And, though Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone quasi-managed to pull it off in Crazy, Stupid, Love, you should never, ever try this at home.
Movie: Center Stage
We’re no strangers to quick changes, thanks to the many dance recitals of our youths, but in a two-second camera pan-up, Jody Sawyer goes from wearing a periwinkle dress, pink tights, pink pointe shoes, and her hair half-up to a red leotard, red skirt, tan tights, red pointe shoes, smokey eye makeup, red lipstick, and her hair in cornrows. Also, she doesn’t appear to leave the stage while all of that occurs. What sort of sorcery is this, and where was it when we were struggling with our own tights in the wings?
What’s even better than a stripper with a heart of gold? A stripper with a heart of gold who never even takes off her clothes. She’s so talented that customers don’t even care about seeing the goods. They’re just happy they can contribute to her ballet-school tuition fund.
Movies: Step Up, Save the Last Dance
He’s hip-hop; she’s ballet — but their bodies know all the same moves. He doesn’t know a pas de chat from a pas de bourrée. She doesn’t know the running man from the robot. It doesn’t matter; explosive sexual chemistry is all these two need to move together in perfect harmony.
Go ahead, you crazy kids: Block off traffic, and strut your stuff on top of cars. Police and pedestrians won’t mind — you’re young, you’re talented, and everyone’s going to remember your name (FAME!). And, you’re not insane; you’re trendsetters. In the future, we’ll call this phenomenon a “flashmob,” and there will be not one but two of them in a rom-com starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
Movies: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Hairspray
When you’ve got the drive and raw talent, sooner or later someone is going to notice. Rather, everyone is going to notice. People in bars, mortal enemies, even parents of mortal enemies, will all experience a profound paradigm shift after your 3-minute routine. It's that good.
Movies: Footloose (both the original and the remake)
The new bad boy in town wants to corrupt everyone — with dancing. It doesn't hurt that he can magically cue up a Kenny Loggins song when he walks into a room. Footloose just goes to show that the more forbidden you make something, the more teens will want to do it. Maybe the minister in Beaumont should’ve outlawed studying or helping the elderly. Then, during an epic final scene, rebellious teens would all show up for the SATs, totally ready to blow the analogy section out of the water after all their hush-hush prep sessions. That’ll totally teach those mean adults to be careful what they ban.
Movies: You Got Served, Bring It On, Stomp the Yard
A hardscrabble crew overcomes insurmountable odds to dance their way out of trouble and into success. Botched drug deals, poverty, and recidivism are total bummers, but having a close-knit crew that’s got your back no matter what will always lead to a happy ending — in a dance movie, that is.
Two crews enter, only one can emerge victorious. Except everyone at the battle already knows — and is totally okay with — which dancers will win. What even is the point, then?
Movie: She’s All That
This isn’t technically a dance movie, per se, but the climax does take place at a dance — specifically, the prom. How does everyone in school suddenly know a choreographed dance to this random song the DJ chose to play? And, yeah, we know they tried to explain it by having Usher’s character say, “We’re going to do that dance I taught you, and I know you’ve been practicing.” That might work for something like the Cha Cha Slide or the Macarena, but not this perfectly synchronized routine that’s almost Fosse-esque in execution. Also, we would like to lodge a formal complaint for the unrealistic expectations this scene gave us for our own proms.
Movie: High School Musical 3: Senior Year
Please take a moment to picture the star athletes at your high school. Now, picture them dancing together in a totally macho way — or just having a discussion about their feelings. This is also another movie that gave us unrealistic expectations for the prom. Disney truly is the land of make-believe.