For the Love of Dance Movies

In honour of the recent release of Step Up Revolution, the 4th movie in the Step Up franchise, I thought it would be a good idea to shine a light on the dance movie genre. It has always seemed funny to me how whenever there is a new dance movie that gets released, reviews tend to all read the same – “The dancing is great! The acting/storyline is terrible! Predictable!” To which I always say, “It’s a DANCE movie! You watch it for the dancing, not the acting!” I must admit though, I am a sucker for dance movies. [Aside: At the same time, I do see the bias in saying you only watch dance movies for the dancing, when people watch certain action movies simply for the action. But that’s neither here nor there.]

If we are honest about it, dance movies play a particular role in the landscape of films. They set out to entertain above all else and to show dance to the masses. I’m not going to go through the history of dance movies because frankly, I haven’t watched enough of the movies of yesteryear (not even classics/staples of the genre like Dirty Dancing, Footloose, Flashdance, Fame – all of which I have on my shelf but haven’t gotten around to watching. Blasphemy, I know.) My knowledge of dance movies is limited to all those movies that came out after 2000, when dance was slowly getting recognition once again, thanks to the onslaught of popstars entering the music scene, which eventually led to dancing being heavily featured on television. Even so, the past decade has given us so many dance movies, and here I offer up 5 of my favourites.

1.) CENTER STAGE

Without a doubt, Center Stage is my favourite of all the dance movies. In a way, it sort of ignited my love for the art of dance. The movie follows a group a young ballet dancers at the American Ballet Company, as they journey through the highs and lows of life associated with the ballet world. Center Stage starred real-life ballet dancers Amanda Schull, Sasha Radetsky, and Ethan Stiefel, as well as Peter Gallagher and the debut of Zoe Saldana.

2.) TAKE THE LEAD

Based loosely on the true story of Pierre Dulaine, a dance teacher who brought ballroom dance into the public school system in New York. The film stars Antonio Banderas as Dulaine and features a great ensemble of young actors including the likes of Jenna Dewan, Rob Brown, Yaya DaCosta, Dante Basco, and Jasika Nicole. I’ll always remember watching this movie on the big screen and honest-to-goodness being on the edge of my seat, almost breathless, watching that tango. I LOVE a good tango.

3.) STEP UP

It starts off with a very typical plotline with a guy and a girl from different sides of the track, meeting and connecting through a common interest – in this case, dance. But what really makes the movie is the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they started dating and eventually got married.

4.) SAVE THE LAST DANCE

You can’t really have a dance movie list without including this one, which in a way, re-ignited the genre. Julia Stiles plays Sara, an aspiring ballerina who puts her dreams on hold after her mother dies in a car accident. She meets Sean Patrick Thomas’ Derek, who helps her re-discover her love for dance and some new hip-hop moves along the way to add to her ballet. The movie plays more dramatic than the rest of the genre, but still makes good with its dance scenes.

5.) BLACK SWAN

Definitely more psychological thriller than dance movie, but Black Swan starring Natalie Portman takes you into the somewhat disturbing side of ballet. It may not be like the other movies you would categorize as a dance movie (i.e. more about the dance sequences than plot/acting), but here’s a movie that melds the two worlds of dance and incredibly acted thriller. It’s the exception to the typical dance movie.

Honourable Mentions

  • Dirty Dancing Havana Nights: Honestly, sitting here writing this, I can’t really recall the defining dance scene in this unneccessary sequel. My love for this movie more than likely stems firmly for my love of the fantastic soundtrack above all else.
  • You Got Served: It’s got some great battle sequences and I at least have some great high school dance crew memories associated with routines and music from this movie.
  • Footloose (2011): It’s a dance movie that’s not really a dance movie. The plot does revolve around being given the choice to dance in public, but the actual dancing aspect is not over-the-top. It really drove the drama and the story, to make the point that we are free to dance so why don’t we?

Anybody else a sucker for dance movies like me? Any favourites of the genre? Hit me up in the comments!

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