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Dance In Film

Written By: Sydney McAllister-Bowen

Photo Credit: La La Land (Movie)





Dance has proven to be an integral part of many iconic films. There are numerous examples of dance scenes that have taken on a life of their own - occasionally even outshining the film they’re featured in. But why do pieces of excellent choreography grab our attention? And why are dance sequences used so frequently in Hollywood?

Many directors have attributed the commercial success of their films to the dance content within them. Audiences have fallen in love with aspects of movies that were initially thought to be inconsequential. Some notable films that feature an iconic dance sequence include: Singin’ In the Rain (1952), Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease (1978), Risky Business (1983), Flashdance (1983), Footloose (1984), White Nights (1985), Dirty Dancing (1987), Pulp Fiction (1994), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Black Swan (2010), Lala Land (2016), and Joker (2019). This list of movies features a wide variety of film genres and targeted audiences. These films left their mark on society in a way that few others have. People from all different backgrounds can recognize a certain dance move, character, or song, due to the success of the films listed above. The power of a well-executed dance sequence is unmatched. Some of these films were centered around dance, and used large, musical-like sequences to tell the story (Singin’ In the Rain, Grease, Flashdance, Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Lala Land). In addition to the commercial success of these musical films, there have been iconic dance scenes in movies that explored life in a world that did not revolve around the arts. Dance when inserted into an unanticipated setting, can be incredibly powerful. This has been done in films such as: Pulp Fiction, Napoleon Dynamite, and Joker.

Dance can be used in an infinite number of ways when telling a story. As seen in the films listed above, dance is an artform that can often aid character development in a more significant way than words can. Whether the character uses technical precision when dancing, or free-flowing, experimental movement, this form of expression stems from a place of solitude that is unaffected by external circumstance. It is evident in critically acclaimed films such as: Black Swan, and Joker, that dance translates exceptionally well to film when portraying one’s descent into madness.

When watching a film in the future, take notice of the meaning behind a scene in which a character begins to dance. As seen in many iconic films of the past, a dance scene can have much more significance than initially meets the eye. Our actions speak louder than words and I believe that dance is the truest embodiment of that phrase.


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