They say dance like nobody’s watching, but what if the whole world is in fact watching? Is that so bad? Is that a shame? I don’t think so. I say dance like every human being on this planet catches a glimpse of your act and make it worth it for them (and for you).
Learn from the people who do that today, have done it for decades and will continue to do it for much longer than that. Who are those? There are some dancers who enter your home through a screen and invite you to be their spectator (and why not, their dance partner) crossing the barriers of time and space. We call them movie actors.
In today’s busy world we tend to take things for granted, but if we pause for a second and think, we realize that some pretty amazing things are available at the tip of our fingers now. How fantastic is it that we can watch Fred Astaire’s mad dance moves as if he’s performing right here, right now? How crazy is it that we can fall in love with Patrick Swayze time and time again while watching him rehearse his routines in Dirty Dancing? And how hard is it to try to hold those tears back when Al Pacino is gently killing the dance floor in the Scent of a Woman? There are no mistakes in the Tango, he says…
You probably guessed it. I am a dancer and I love dance movies. They inspire me, they relax me, they take me on emotional roller coasters, they help me dream bigger and bigger and ultimately they make me jump off the couch and dance in front of the TV.
Dance movies take us to a happier dimension where spontaneous dance sequences in the middle of the street or the cafeteria are perfectly plausible. Who cares if you are in the office, in a car wash or in a park? Suddenly, there’s music coming from somewhere and all the people surrounding you will leave whatever they are doing and join you in a crazy choreography.
Wouldn’t real life simply be better if that would randomly happen to us?
I think it would.
But when reality has other plans, watching movies is our best bet to escape it and create our own.
How To Choose The Best Dance Movie Of All Time
Cinematographic masterpieces will always be up there on a pedestal, waiting for us to get to them, to admire them, to talk about them, but never to move them from the place they’ve earned in the film industry. Masterpieces will remain masterpieces, points of reference for anyone interested. They are timeless.
What To Look For
While choosing top ten best movies of all time, I am very likely to include a few dance movies, not because I am a dancer, but because, they are genuinely good. For some people, the best movie of all time has to be a certain genre or have certain theme, for others it has to star their favourite actors or to have won a lot of awards, to be directed by a well-known director or to score well on reputable websites.
For me and many others it is a combination of these factors, plus the feel-good factor. The best movie is the one that makes me feel the best; rather the one movie that manages to shake my soul, bend my mind and take me on an emotional adventure from start to finish.
When it comes to the best dance movies of all time, they have a couple more conditions to fulfil: they first have to force me to get out of the bed (and start dancing in front of the TV like a lunatic) and second, they have to stimulate my creative inner-self and make it go wild. If I don’t create anything after watching a dance movie, then it wasn’t good enough.
Without further suspense, my choice for the best dance movie of all times is Robert Wise’s and Jerome Robbins' 1961 masterpiece – West Side Story. The movie is an adaptation of the 1957 musical of the same name, considered in itself an essential milestone in the history of musical theatre. Based on the tragic Shakespearean love story of Romeo and Juliet, the film is set in New York in the 1950s. Instead of the Houses of Montague and Capulet, we have the two vicious rival gangs, fighting for the neighbourhood control: the Jets and the Sharks. They find it hard to deal with the love story between the Jets co-founder and ex-member Tony (portrayed by Richard Beymer) and Maria (brought to life by Natalie Wood) the Sharks leader’s sister. Not surprisingly, young blood is shed.
Recommendation For You - West Side Story (1961)
What seems to be a somehow trivial story about a forbidden tragic relationship turns out to be a very clever social commentary on racism, gun violence and gang culture, still relevant in today’s society. Whereas most musicals of that time were created solely for entertainment purposes, the West Side Story was a brave step towards the deeper, more fulfilling type of productions, pointing out to the issues of humanity across the nations.
The way the actors managed to transpose the bravado, the arrogance and the conflict into dance still astonishes me today. The dirty unglamorous fights between urban gangs are depicted in dance explosions of energy and wrath. The painfully romantic love story is unveiled with gentle heart-breaking balletic movements. The anxiety and suspense are built up with every stomp, with every sudden leap and violent gesture the actors make. The way their bodies move tells a better story than any line in the script could have. As the reputable journalist and director Benna Crawford says, ballet gave the choreography grace, jazz and genius gave it personality. It’s a combination you don’t want to miss.
The fact that today, the choreographies in West Side Story are still well-known and part of many popular flashmobs around the world demonstrate the power dance had over the narrative of the movie. Famous dance scenes made their way in sitcoms like Family Guy and The Simpsons and were used as cultural reference points.
As I don’t wish to give you any more spoilers to the story, I will only leave Bernstein’s brilliant soundtrack for this movie to convince you that you should watch it (and potentially fall in love with it).
How To Choose The Best Dance Movie On Netflix
With the rise of streaming services such as Netflix we are given a chance to become the next generation of cinephiles from the comfort of our own home. This also means that watching a dance movie and dancing in front of the TV along with the characters is now less embarrassing than ever, since doing that in a cinema could potentially attract some unwanted attention and disturb some of the viewers.
What To Look For
While the variety of movies, series, shows, concerts or documentaries Netflix offers can feel overwhelming, when it comes to dance, there are a few titles you might not want to miss. Depending on your personal taste, I recommend movies such as Dirty Dancing, Center Stage, Mr Gaga: A True Story of Love and Dance, Burlesque (a personal guilty-pleasure) and Restless Creature, the latest dance documentary about the famous ballerina Wendy Whelan.
However, there is one movie that I wholeheartedly invite everyone involved in the dance field to watch and analyse, a movie that captures the drama behind the curtain and bravely dives into the problem of mental illness, so common among high level artists. I am talking about Darren Aronofsky’s masterpiece – The Black Swan. The mise-en-scene is absolutely brilliant and Natalie Portman is a gorgeous tragic character who invites the viewer into the ominous multi-dimensional universe of the human mind.
The movie depicts a story of self-destruction using powerful images, filled with slightly hidden symbolism. One of my favourite scenes shows Nina (portrayed by Natalie Portman) hallucinating as the drawings in her mother’s studio come to life and become evil. It points to the way her most beloved passion, the art of dancing, turned itself into her enemy, trying to kill her as she focused on trying to perfect it rather than enjoy it. With its dark and creepy effects, the movie sets the frame for yet another story about the obsessed artist who becomes the helpless victim of his or her own biggest passion.
Recommendation For You - The Black Swan (2010)
Nina fights for the leading role in Swan Lake, which requires a dancer who can play both the delicate and fragile White Swan and its dark evil counterpart, the Black Swan to perfection. Her competition –Lily, her dominating mother, the company’s director and especially her own dark side that slowly comes to surface, push Nina into a living nightmare, as she slowly descends into madness.
The dance scenes are glorious, the costumes and the make-up are dreamlike for any ballet dancer alive (me included) and the music…oh well, Tchaikovsky never disappoints.
How To Choose The Best Hip-Hop Dance Movies
Hip-Hop dance is part of a culture which started off as an underground move on the streets of the East and West American Coasts. With the rise of the Internet and especially with the rise of platforms like YouTube, Hip Hop dance turned from an extra part in music videos into a true art in its own right. Hip-Hop dancers like Wade Robson, Dan Karaty or Brian Friedman are making history and inspire generations of new artists. TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance or America’s Best Dance Crew offer the chance to the most talented dancers to show off their work and that doesn’t go unnoticed. People these days love it. Hip-hop Dance moved from the streets of the American Coasts to everywhere in the world.
And that is how it got to me…
What To Look For
Living in a small European city, I never quite had access to the real street culture, so the only way I could interact with this lively and inspiring style that is Hip Hop, was by doing a little extra research. If you share a similar story with me, here are some great movies that will introduce you to the funky Hip Hop Universe: Straight Outta Compton, Notorious, Wild Style and of course, 8 Mile starring Eminem and Curtis Hanson.
After you got the right vibe from these movies, diving in deeper into a narrower part of this culture, namely the Hip Hop dance, will probably require you to watch what was once regarded as the Holy Grail of Hip-Hop movies, Style Wars.
The movie was awarded the Grand Prize for Documentaries at Sundance Film Festival in 1983 and it is considered to be a crucial depiction of New York street culture in the ‘80s. It is described as being about a golden age of youthful creativity that exploded into the world from a city in crisis.
As a huge fan of the Star Wars movies, I was intrigued with this documentary from the title. Its similarity with George Lucas’ franchise was not random, as they are both points of reference, crucial milestones in their genres. A.O. Scott from the New York Times called it a breakthrough documentary and he was right.
Recommendation For You - Style Wars (1983)
The movie depicts the hip-hop movement a minute before it became part of the pop culture, capturing its purest essence. We are in the ‘80s when MCs, DJs and B-boys are changing the face of New York City, painting it in graffiti and organizing dance battles at every street corner. Watching this movie will reveal to you the stories of the forefathers of one of the biggest artistic movements in the past hundred years.
VIBE, the premier publication and cultural base for the hip-hop world considers this movie to be the Hip-Hop’S Rosetta Stone and they are certainly right. In my opinion any hip-hop dancer (and any dancer in general) should watch it at least once. The famous dancer Crazy Legs shows up in this documentary, along with graffiti artists like Dondi, Seen or Shy 147. The dance battle between the Rock Steady Crew and the Dynamic Rockers is simply so memorable that even the Rolling Stone wrote about it, so you probably do not want to miss it.
How To Choose The Best Breakdance Movies
Just like Hip-Hop, Breakdance is wild and funky, meant to make a statement and send a powerful message to the audience whenever performed. There is a never-ending discussion about the difference between these two styles, with lots of misunderstandings about both of them.
Most myths will include radical categorizations such as breakdance is all about acrobatics and hip-hop is all about dance or mistakes related to the way these styles are choreographed (let’s all remember they are both freestyle dances in the end).
What To Look For
People tend to argue a lot when it comes to the division between hip-hop and breakdancing, so getting your facts straight, especially if you happen to be a b-boy or a b-girl is a crucial step in your career development as a dancer. A well-rounded breakdance artist will acquire knowledge about his field on the dance floor, in the rehearsal room, in dance clubs, on the street, but also in the comfort of his own apartment by reading and watching movies about this style.
The Freshest Kids – A History of the B-Boy will come in handy and clarify all the details you need to know about breakdancing with hours of footage featuring the world’s most respectable b-boys: Ken Swift, New York City Breakers, Mr Wiggles, Styelements together with the newest sensations and promising stars of the breaking scene. The old school and new school of breakdancing are presenting the evolution of the dancers since the 1970s until today, focusing on the expansion of the underground movement to a worldwide phenomenon and its return to the underground scene in a matter of decades. Rap legends like KRS-One or Mos Def are there to guide you through your craft’s history and development.
Recommendation For You - The Freshest Kids (2002)
With the musical innovations of the disc jockeys, such as Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash who created extended rhythm breaks using cross-mixing and scratching, wild and acrobatic dance styles saw the light of day. Back spins, head balancing, flares and fancy halos took over the streets and dance floors, transforming dance history forever.
Another thing I like about is that the movie is a mixture of archive material mixed with amateur clips, keeping it very real and authentic. Also, there are a few uncut b-boy battles like the ones between the Stylelements vs. The Renegades and the Flo Masters vs Super Dave that will have you glued to the TV.
If you have 94 minutes to dedicate to learning about the early days of this influential style (plus a couple more hours for the bonus footage), I highly recommend this documentary. And if you don’t trust me, you can trust its 8.1/10 score on IMDB and its 4,5/5 rating on Amazon.
How To Choose The Best 70’s Dance Movies
The 1970’s came with their fair share of weird dance trends such as The Robot, The Bump, YMCA Dance, Funky Chicken Dance and of course, The Disco Finger. These will always be remembered and occasionally re-enacted at nostalgic house parties. However, apart from these funky flashbacks, as an era of huge social and cultural change, the 70s made some important contributions to the dance field by adding styles like the Disco Swing, Breaking (of course) and Punk Dancing ( yes, punks can dance, but we basically call it Moshing and Pogo).
However, when it comes to the 70s my thoughts go to the biggest dance stars of that era: Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail “Misha” Baryshnikov. They are regarded as some of the best ballet dancers in history and watching them perform is simply marvellous. Luckily for us, apart from live footages featuring these men dancing on the world’s biggest stages, there are also movies in which they starred, still accessible to us.
What To Look For
If I were to choose my favourite dance movie from the 70s it will most certainly be Valentino (1977). Yes, that Valentino, Rudolph Valentino (Rodolfo Pietro Filiberto Raffaello Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguella), the Italian actor who stole the hearts of millions of women across the world. His movie The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) became one of the first films to make $ 1,000,000 at the box office.
Considered an early pop icon and the sex symbol of the roaring ‘20s, his sudden death at the young age of 31 caused mass hysteria and several women committed suicide when they found out their idol passed away.
Several decades later, in 1977, another Rudolph, this time the ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev portrays him in a stunning movie, Valentino, directed by Ken Russell.
The short dialogue between Natasha Rambova and Alla Nazimova, two of the female characters in the movie, sums up everything that is great about Valentino and his performance.
Natasha: “Is that Valentino? He certainly can dance.”
Alla: “What? I like. Yes, I like very much. Very good. Oh, beautiful. Beautiful animal! Like a Tiger. He moves like a tiger! That face. What sensuality.”
Recommendation For You - Valentino (1977)
Nureyev manages to skilfully depict the way Valentino managed to manipulate his female counterparts with his good looks and out-of-this-world grace. His unique attitude with a touch of elegant cruelty turned him into an emblem of both shocking, but extremely hard to resist sexuality. The portrayal of the Italian artist is timeless, genuine and honest. The dance scenes, especially the tango with Mr Fatty’s Girl (Carol Kane) are masterfully choreographed, bringing pure passion and delight straight on your TV screen.
It’s a beautiful, but tragic biography of a mysterious man played by another equally mysterious artist.
How To Choose The Best Jazz Dance Movies
During the Great Migration, African-Americans flocked to Chicago from the South and brought with them age-old jazz and blues. The genre became more and more popular and soon Chicago turned into the home of a legendary jazz scene with names like King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong regularly performing in the city.
What To Look For
Jazz dance on its own is just as free and fluid as the musical genre bearing the same name Originating from Africa, a place with a rich somatic cultural tradition, the smooth and explosive jazz moves have been capturing the audience’s attention for decades. Famous dancers such as Jack Cole –The Father of Jazz Dance Technique, Katherine Dunham or Lester Horton paved the way for new generations of performers who started to incorporate Jazz in their dance routines, transforming the world of Broadway dance, tap dance and ballet.
And all that jazz…
While watching movies such as Born to Be Blue, based on Chet Baker’s life and era or Miles Ahead, depicting the life of jazz musician Miles Davis, will get you accustomed with the legends of the musical genre, there is one movie that, in my opinion, will make you love jazz dance – Chicago (2002). Starring Catherine Zeta Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere among others, the film follows the stories of two murderesses who got thrown in jail for their crimes and are waiting for their trial. They are both fighting for celebrity, portraying the fame thirst, corruption, organized crime and scandalous liaisons happening behind the curtains of the jazz scene back in the roaring ‘20s.
Recommendation For You - Chicago (2002)
The movie is based on a 1926 play which is in turn about the murders and trials of real characters, Belva Gaertner, a three times divorced cabaret singer who shot her lover dead and Beulah Annan. The 2002 version of the movie won six Oscars in 2003, including Best Picture, another 51 awards and 128 other nominations.
From the very first scene we’re introduced to the sensual vaudeville act of Velma Kelly (portrayed by Catherine Zeta Jones) and we are instantly seduced by the legendary song she dances to – All That Jazz. With quick sharp movements mixed with slow and sensual ones, matching the lyrics and the tempo of the song, the audience is under a spell and everyone watches the dancers in awe – everyone in the night club this scene is set in and everyone at home watching the movie years later. The whole dance points out to the way people acted when they went out to enjoy themselves in places where the gin is cold and the piano is hot. They started to come out of their shells and paint the town – smoking and drinking as they pleased, acting against the law (let’s not forget that’s the Prohibition era).
The movie is filled with dance scenes you will love, but one of my favourites is the Cell Block Tango scene which tells the stories of six women who find themselves in jail for murdering their lovers – they had it coming!
Pop! Six! Squish! Uh-uh! Cicero Lipschitz!
These six words will be stuck in your head for so long until you choreograph yourself a rendition of the famous scene. Or at least, this is how it worked for me. The bitterness of the murderesses is somehow empowering and it makes them look strong while they take control of their male dance partners. An absolutely stunning and overwhelming performance for any viewer!
How To Choose The Best Dance Movies For Tweens
Great dancers usually start out their professional career when they are young, so it is important to have the right influences at the right time in order to get yourself inspired to pursue your path. Dancing is a tough career that takes up most of your time, energy and soul, so you need to make sure you are 100% dedicated to it. And if you are, it will pay off. If you are not, it will still pay off, but only as a hobby.
What To Look For
When I was little, a while before I started to take my first ballet lessons I was watching ballet shows from the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow online. It felt like watching a fairy tale played by real people. It was great, but somehow, as a very young dancer, I felt like I could not relate to the kind of performance the professional dancers were able to offer to their public.
I needed something closer to me, closer to the real people struggling to get where the Russian ballet dancers I was watching already were. So I started watching movies like Step-Up, Ballet Shoes, Center Stage and Footloose which featured simple adolescent stories that made my dream to become a ballerina seem a little more attainable.
However, my favourite teen movie of all time will remain Save the Last Dance.
As a film of beautifully depicted contrasts, it tackles important social issues such as interracial relationships, poverty, fatherlessness, dysfunctional families and gun violence, in a way that is accessible to young people. Also, the dance scenes are real good, but easy to relate to.
Julia Stiles is Sara Johnson, a promising dancer who hopes to be admitted to Juilliard School, one of the world’s leading drama, music and dance schools. She fails her audition exam and learns that her mother died in a car crash on the way to see her audition. Hopeless, she moves in with her father and transfers to a high school in the south side of Chicago where she happens to be one of a handful of white students.
Here’s where Sara’s immersion into the hip-hop culture begins. She becomes friends with Chenille and her brother Derek, skilfully portrayed by Sean Patrick Thomas. Derek is trying to escape the gang lifestyle and follow his dream to become a doctor, by getting accepted to Georgetown Medical School. On his way to achieving his goals he decides to help Sara succeed in her career by incorporating more hip-hop into her ballet skills. I must tell you the results are amazing and her transformation is stunning.
Recommendation For You - Save The Last Dance (2001)
There are a few dance scenes like the ones in STEPPS club that will simply make you jump off the couch and start learning some hip-hop moves yourself and more than that, to follow your dreams no matter how complicated the road to success may be.
It is good for you as young dancers to get a taste of completely different styles other than the one you already are focusing on, as it will turn you into the well-rounded artist you wish to become.
Honestly, as a ballerina I have resonated very well with Sara and I have tried to broaden my (dancing) horizon by adding some groove to my stiff classical style. It works and it feels great and I highly recommend it. This movie also works the other way around. If you are a hip-hop dancer, you could try adding some elegant moves to your routine. I am quite sure it will make you a very interesting character on the dance floor.
However, no matter on which side of the barricade you are, Save The Last Dance shows how influential and important the hip-hop culture is for a dancer and how inspirational it can be for an artist in general, while depicting a beautiful love story between two people who were never supposed to be together.
How To Choose The Best Swing Dance Movies
When you have such a culturally rich era like the ‘20s and the ‘30s, tracing back the origin of famous dance styles is not too difficult. Lots of them were developed at that time. Back then, New York’s Harlem district was home to a new dance craze – the Swing.
What To Look For
Swing was a term that incorporated many different styles, some of which survived until today and are increasing in popularity among young dancers, such as the Lindy Hop, Balboa, Collegiate Shag, Charleston or Foxtrot. As a dancer, it is important to cover Swing dance, even if you don’t concentrate your career around this style. It was so big that it is more or less impossible not to come across its influences. Whether it’s the fancy aerials, the flashy vintage clothes, the fast and bouncy moves or the electric music rhythms that got you, you’re going to put a little swing in your step and you know it.
In my opinion, becoming familiar to Swing will require you watch some of the stars of the style in action. I recommend Frankie Manning – the master of aerials and flips and Dean Collins – a brilliant dancer in the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, who was only 18 when he received the Dancer of the Year Award.
Better understanding the Swing era cultural phenomenon will require further reading and also watching movies that depict the atmosphere from those times and are able to transport you back in time.
Recommendation For You - Swing Kids (1993)
My favourite Swing related movie is and will probably always remain Swing Kids (1993), directed by Thomas Carter, starring Christian Bale, Robert Sean Leonard and Frank Whaley.
The story takes us to a pre-World War II Germany, where two high school kids are trying to live double lives, as part of Hitler Youth during the day and crazy swing kids by night. For a little historical context, the Swing Youth was an actual group of jazz and swing lovers in Germany during the 1930s, comprised of people who admired the American way of life and were opposed to the National-Socialist ideology represented by the Hitler Youth group.
Now you can imagine how that works out for our protagonists. Powerful scenes like the one when Arvid, one of the characters, refuses to play a German song and lashes out at the club’s owner accusing him of being blind to the Nazi cruel agenda, followed by his devastating and hopeless suicide, the scene in which Peter sings “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing” mockingly in front of the police officer or the following scene where Wille Muller keeps screaming “Swing Heil!” (mocking the infamous “Sieg Heil!”) as he watches his brother Peter being driven away by the Nazis, make this film a moving reminder of what it meant to passionately love something and use it as fuel to become part of a resistance movement. Thousands of Swing
Kids were sent to work in camps or forced to join the army and then died in war. I cried. A lot. But I have also danced with them, because the energy of these young people enjoying something that was prohibited to them by a cruel regime is absolutely contagious. Choreographed by Otis Sallid, the Swing dance scenes are very energetic and inspiring, underlining once again the power of dance in a society going through a major crisis.
How To Choose The Best Ballroom Dance Movies
The signature dance of the elite social classes, ballroom dance used to belong to the royalty and aristocracy. With the earliest record of European ballroom dating back from 1588 in Jehan Tabourot’s dance study – Orchesographie, this style traces its roots in the highest strata of society, but it fortunately did not remain there.
What To Look For
In the middle of the 17th century, King Louis XIV popularized Minuet in the Royal French Court and a few decades later he formed the Academie Royale de Musique et de Danse which started to produce the first professionally trained ballet dancers. Turning our heads towards England, the most important contribution to ballroom dance, originating from the Victorian era, is the waltz. Later on, ballroom dance incorporated other styles such as tango, foxtrot, quickstep, cha-cha and rumba and it also became open to the public, as the barriers between social classes no longer mattered in the dance world.
Today, with hundreds of competitions happening every year across the world, ballroom dance attracts more and more people and the variety of styles it has to offer suits everyone’s personal tastes.
No matter which one you are concentrating on, it is always indicated to have at least minimal knowledge and understanding of as many styles as possible. So, whether you’re an elegant waltzer or a wild and exotic rumba dancer, I encourage you to get comfortable and watch a few ballroom dance movies. It’s the easiest way to learn something about dance outside the rehearsal hall. Movies will get you familiar with the styles you haven’t tackled yet and they will inspire you as you observe other people perform the styles you have already mastered.
Recommendation For You - Strictly Ballroom (1992)
My recommendation when it comes to ballroom dance movies comes from the brilliant Australian director Baz Luhrmann. Strictly Ballroom (1992) is a romantic comedy that tells a story with a message that is very dear to my heart: no victory that is truly important will require you to abandon your own creative spirit and moral values for it. Scott Hastings (portrayed by Paul Mercurio) is one of Australia’s best ballroom dancers who gets fed up with the Dance Federation rigid steps and wants to focus on developing his own personal style of dancing. His former dance partner does not agree with his decision and leaves him, so Scott has to find another partner, this time an amateur dancer to match his passion and unusual approach to performing. He finds Fran (Tara Morice) who seems to complement him perfectly.
Together they try to win the championship, but as you may expect they encounter lots of obstacles. Among them there are Scott’s parents, who are both professional ballroom dancers and spent their life training Scott to become the next big star in the family. Since this may sound familiar to many of you out there, this movie encourages dancers to find their own voice and establish their own style without desperately trying to adhere to rigid standards. And the results speak for themselves.
The dances scenes are electrifying and they are done by the actors themselves. There is no “stunt dancing” in the movie. My favourite scene is a passionate Paso-Doble which strictly ballroom or not, makes the audience go crazy.
Roger Ebert, a film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times (and the only film critic with a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame) says that the true weirdness of the movie comes when we begin to realize the director didn’t make everything up; only real life could possibly have inspired a world this bizarre. Now if that didn’t get you intrigued, I don’t know what will, since we all know how out-of-this-world dance competitions can get sometimes. Relax and enjoy!
How To Choose The Best Salsa Dance Movies
La Vida Es Un Carnaval says Celia Cruz and any Latin dancer takes her word for it. And it is great that they do, because it is from that mind-frame that the zestful choreographies they perform come from. Whenever I see someone dancing Salsa it feels like I am watching someone who truly understood what being happy feels like and it makes me want to dance to too. There’s something about that rhythm that simply won’t let you sit down. It’s contagious and I love it.
What To Look For
Born in Cuba, Salsa is a fresh combination between the Danzón, African Rumbas and Són, which are traditional dance styles coming from people all around the world. Its expansion to the United States is a very important milestone in the history of dance, with a peak in popularity around the ‘70s, as it allowed for amazing artists like Hector Lavoe (please watch El Cantante), Fania All-Stars, Ruben Blades, Ismael Rivera, Joe Arroyo and of course our beloved Celia Cruz to rise to fame. And when there’s good music, great dance will follow – so great that they make movies about it.
Recommendation For You - Shine (2018)
If you are already a salsa dancer or plan on becoming one, there is one film I recommend you watch before your next rehearsal – Shine (2018). As the winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2017 Urbanworld Film Festival this movie pays homage to a rich and beautiful culture and tradition, while telling the story of two brothers Ralphi and Junior, two highly acclaimed Spanish Harlem salsa dancers. In the face of tragedy, Ralphi wants to abandon everything that defined his life, including his family, his culture and his lover. He returns after seven years and upon reuniting with his brother he realizes they are on the opposite sides of gentrification.
Junior became an elite salsa dancer and an activist who fights to preserve his community, while his brother is the perfect emblem of the corporate world. This movie shows once again the power of dance through the community that comes to life around it. The dance scenes are high-powered and underline how important it is to save one’s traditional heritage from being engulfed by money-hungry corporations and globalization.
Ralphi, who needs to confront his past and risk his life to help his brother save the community that was once so dear to both of them, is portrayed by a very talented dancer Jorge “Ataca” Burgos. Together with his partner Tanja “La Alemana” Kensinger, Burgos turned into a celebrity in the Latino dance world in 2008 when their bachata routine on “Te Extrano” by Xtreme became viral on YouTube.
How To Choose The Best Tap Dance Movies
Tap Dance traces its origins in the Unites States and it was born as a result of the mixture between the African, Irish and English cultures at the beginning of the 19th century. The combination of borrowed and adapted moves from clog dances, hornpipes and jigs created this new percussive dance style later popularized by legendary names like Fred Astaire.
What To Look For
In the mid-1800s, during the rise of the minstrel shows, William Henry Lane, known as Master Juba, became one of a handful of black performers who were accepted in a white dance troupe. He is also considered to be one of the first celebrated tap dancers in the world. Later on, John “Bubbles” Sublett and Ford “Buck” Washington, a famous duo (that I encourage you to watch and read about), perfected “the class act” which required the performers to wear impeccable tuxedos, displaying stylish excellence while dancing and thus created the elegant image that now pops up in our heads whenever we think about tap dance.
This played an important cultural role, as black dancers were usually held to other standards. They were supposed to be the embodiment of minstrel show stereotypes, grinning and dancing clowns, lazy and incompetent fools. Artists like Bubbles, Cholly Atkins and Charles Coles stood against this racist tradition and boldly rejected it. Once again, dance changes the course of history. Or at least shakes up the social order a little bit. With these central figures in our mind and with many others serving as models, lots of us took up tap dance classes.
Honestly, I’ve become interested in this style after a Fred Astaire movie marathon that included Top Hat, Holiday Inn, Swing Time, The Band Wagon and of course, my all-time favourite – Broadway Melody of 1940. Apart from Astaire, the movie stars another brilliant dancer, actually considered the most exceptional tap-female dancer of her generation, Eleanor Powell.
Fred talks about his dance partner Eleanor in his autobiography Steps in Time where he remarks: She put ‘em down like a man, no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself.
Now that’s the type of role-model I want for my dancing career!
Recommendation For You - Broadway Melody of 1940
Directed by Norman Taurog, the movie tells the story of Johnny Brett (Fred Astaire) and King Shaw (George Murphy), a broke dance team, and Clare Bennett (Eleanor Powell), a rich Broadway superstar. Producer Bob Casey mistakenly confuses Shaw with Johnny and gives him the lead role in a new Broadway show, partnering him up with Clare. Even when the newfound fame and fortune go to his head, making Shaw hard to deal with, Johnny still helps him. However, later on Clare discovers Johnny is the better dancer and the one who was supposed to be her partner in the new musical. They fall in love. And the rest will be for you to discover.
What I do need to tell you though is that there is a scene in this movie that is and will remain very important in the history of dance – the Begin the Beguine dance, on Cole Porter’s music. The Beguine was described as a slow Rumba, resembling both the French ballroom dancing and Latin folk dancing. What a mix! And what a delightful choreography! So delightful that it is now, decades later, celebrated and re-enacted by dancers across the world.
I’d be very happy if after watching this movie, you feel like trying to do a remake of the dance yourself and you’d share the result with me and our dancing community!
Give it a try! Astaire will watch and applaud you from above! And so will we!
How To Choose The Best Bollywood Dance Movies
What is the most colourful, energetic and extroverted dance style in the world?
If I were to ask you that question, I am willing to bet that one of the most common answers I‘d get would be “Bollywood”. And I tend to agree.
What To Look For
Sangeet Natak Akademi, which is the National Academy of Performing Art in India, describes eight Indian classical dance styles (or Shastriya Nritya): Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathkali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Sattriya, Manipuri and Mohiniyattam. Other scholars and authorities include Chhau, Yakshagana and Bhagavata Mela in this category.
Honestly, when I first encountered this list I felt overwhelmed. I could barely pronounce most of the names in it. Mastering any of these styles seemed close to impossible. But later on, things have changed. Right now, I find it hard to believe that there are choreographers out there in the world that have yet to study the Indian dance tradition. It is such an endless source of inspiration that you simply cannot look past it. I highly recommend you to dedicate a few months of your dancing career to this tradition, no matter what your actual style is.
A great way to begin your journey into this exotic universe is to start watching a few Bollywood movies. They take a little bit from the Indian classical dance tradition, a little bit from the modern western dance, a little bit of jazz and put it all together in colourful productions that will do nothing but entertain you.
According to a paper written by Sangita Shresthova and published by the Department of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, the popularity of Bollywood dance classes has reached its peak in the Western world nowadays and it continues to increase. That doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Bollywood is a fantastic style. I have always been a big fan of Shiamak Davar, the famous Indian choreographer and his dance company. They put on fabulous shows combining traditional Bollywood dances with contemporary jazz styles and the result is brilliant. Deva Shree Ganesha is one of my favourite performances wearing Shiamak’s signature on it and I encourage you to watch it.
Recommendation For You - Dhoom 2 (2006)
My number one recommendation when it comes to Bollywood movies will be Dhoom 2 (2006). You simply cannot sit down and relax while listening to Dhoom Again or Crazy Kiya Re and watching brilliant dancers like Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan perform. You have to get up and dance. I loved it so much I actually had these two songs incorporated in my variety shows for a long time. With this movie, Shiamak Davar won the Technical Award for the Best Choreography at Screen Awards India in 2006.
The story starts in the Namib Desert with Mr A, a fearless thief, who skydives onto the train that the Queen is travelling in. He manages to steal her crown along with other very valuable artefacts. He teams up with Sunehri, a very beautiful woman, and plans their next heists together. Following them are three police officers. We move on to Rio de Janeiro where Mr A finds out that Sunehri, who became his lover, is not who she said she was.All in all, a very good action movie with a real fabulous example of modern Bollywood dance that will most likely make you want to take up some classes. It sure had this effect on lots of dancers across the world, as there are hundreds of dance covers after the scenes Dhoom 2. You already know I am waiting for your version!
How To Choose The Best Movies About Dance Competitions and Dance Battles
What’s it like to be a dancer and never enter a competition or a battle? It feels a little unnatural only to think about it, doesn’t it?
I think it is in our blood to compete with our fellow dancers and not just to show off, but as a means of learning and perfecting our skills. From street and club battles to school competitions, from national to world cups and championships, this kind of events happen all the time and each of us is eager to participate and potentially win.
What To Look For
Whether we do it for the adrenaline, for the show, for the prize, for the recognition or for the pure pleasure of dancing and meeting new people who share the same passion as us, participating in dance competitions makes us better performers.
And this is how I get to recommend an entire dance movie franchise that is very dear to me –probably because they were amongst the first dance movies I have watched as a kid – the Step Up films. The main series has five movies in total: Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D, Step Up Revolution, Step Up All In. There is also a spin-off Step Up: Year of Dance and a TV series Step Up: High Waters.
My favourite one is Step Up 3D (2010) as it features some of the best dance battle scenes. The plot itself is very easy to follow and it revolves around Luke, Natalie, Moose and Camille. Moose is majoring in electrical engineering and promised his father he would concentrate on his career and he will give up dancing. However, old habits die hard and Moose finds himself in a dance battle with Kid Darkness from the House of Samurai crew.
Recommendation For You - Step Up 3D (2010)
After seeing this Luke Katcher, the leader of the House of Pirates crew takes Moose to his place, a warehouse that got turned into a club, and tries to convince him to join his dance crew for a chance to win the grand prize in the World Jam Championships. Natalie has to choose between her romantic relationship and her family who happens to be Luke’s rivals. Two love stories, anger, energy and betrayal mixed up with lots of great choreographies will follow.
Amy Biancolli from San Francisco chronicle describes the dancing scenes in the movie as propulsive streetwise breaking, the kind of head-spinning, hand-springing, joint-popping explosion of movement that would break bones if it weren’t already breaking the law of gravity. And she is totally right. I will leave this really cute Fred Astaire remake of I won’t dance to convince you to sit back, relax and enjoy this movie. And if that was not enough, here’s the movie’s most awesome dance battle that I’m sure you won’t forget too soon.
How To Choose The Best Latin Dance Movies
Seamos realistas y hagamos lo imposible (Let’s be realistic and accomplish the impossible) says the Argentinian-born revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. While our dance quests are not nearly as difficult as leading the guerrillas in South America, the journey of becoming a truly great performer does sometimes require believing in the impossible.
What To Look For
I believe that we need constant guidance and inspiration on our way to turning into the best version of ourselves. Mentorship is crucial in this career and I highly recommend you choose a few role models and follow them until you find your own voice. Along with them, it is also important to read about dancers and their careers, to go and see them perform live, to watch movies or documentaries and let them inspire you. In my own quest of becoming a better dancer, I’ve come across yet another beautiful story told by our beloved Antonio Banderas.
Inspired by the real-life story of Pierre Dulaine, which Banderas himself saw as fascinating, the movie Take the Lead (2006) tells the story of a dance teacher who believes in the talent of his students and serves as a role-model, guiding them not only on the dance floor, but through their very troubled lives.
He takes a group of teenagers struggling with different issues such as poverty and gang vioence and turns them into a team, giving their life a purpose through dance. For example, LaRhette is the daughter of a prostitute and Rock, a high school gang member, is forced to take a job (that he later on loses) to sustain himself financially as he gets kicked out of his house by his own drunken father. As Chicago Sun film critic Roger Ebert said, the movie begins with rudeness, ends with good manners, and argues that poor inner city schools can be redeemed by dancing. Although it seems like a very optimistic viewpoint, sometimes it actually works in real life.
Recommendation For You - Take The Lead (2006)
Pierre is a fascinating character for his students and his idea to teach them how to dance in their detention class is at first resisted and then highly appreciated and transforms the rebellious, resentful, potentially criminal students into respectable dancers and members of the society. There is salsa, there is tango and there is Banderas. The recipe of a great dance movie is in place and waiting for you to enjoy it. I definitely recommend it.
“Nobody puts baby in the corner!”
Patrick Swayze (or his character from Dirty Dancing, Johnny) knows what he’s talking about. Whenever you feel like you need someone to take you out from the corner you’ve been hiding in and gently push you into the spotlight of the centre stage, take a few hours, relax and watch a dance movie.
They have a great effect on the low self-esteem moments each dancer encounters in their career and we all recall going through plenty of them. Trust me, I am a dancer and I know! I have shared with you the movies that made me feel better and inspired me along the way, now it is your turn!
What are your favourite dance movies and why?
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