Not going backwards is advancement, of a sort. And man should learn to walk before he can dance – Alexander Pope.
Being two entirely separate artistic expressions, dance and film have more in common than one might think.
For one, many neophytes engage in dance classes, enter a conservatory or even dedicate their lives to dance after seeing an inspiring film about the wonders of dance. Drama, musicals, and adventure: there is a dance for every genre.
Discover now the ten must-see dance movies prior to signing up for your dance lessons.
Let your freestyle dance audition be as fiery as Alex’s in Flashdance! Source: Movie title
Director: Adrian Lynne
Synopsis: Working as a welder in a factory, Alex dances at night in a club called Mawby’s Bar. Stolidly refusing her boss, Nick’s advances, she dreams of entering a prestigious school of dance to establish herself as an artist.
Initially overwhelmed by the application process, Alex nevertheless finds herself with an audition. Realising that Nick has pulled those strings for her, she is furious – but auditions all the same.
Dance styles featured: ballet, in the initial audition sequence; contemporary dance, modern jazz dancing, and standard jazz.
Where to find it: the DVD can be had for just under £6 new, on Amazon
Directors: Anne Fletcher, John M. Chu, Scott Speer, Trish Sie and others
Synopsis: this film franchise follows the general lines of the previously discussed film.
The protagonist remains dubious of his talent and accomplishments in the face of everyone else’s pedigrees but ends up leading the dance troupe to victory in the end.
Whether for its line dancing or pairs dancing sequences, Step Up 2 remains the most popular of the franchise.
Featured dance styles: hip-hop, ballroom dancing, jazz dancing, and step dancing.
Where to find it: Currently, Step Up 4 – Miami Heat is streaming on Netflix. Other installments can be found on Amazon for a range of prices, depending on whether you want the whole series or just one film.
Does your Salsa dancing look quite so saucy? Source: movie title
Directed by: John Badham
Synopsis: in 1977, young New York dancer Tony Manero seeks to escape the boredom of Brooklyn life by hitting the dance floor every Saturday night at The Odyssey.
Envied by men and wanted by women throughout the disco, this smoke and mirrors artist must confront the tide of emotion that feeds his talent.
So impactful is this film that it has become an essential chapter in the history of dance!
Where you can find it: on Amazon, for £5.99.
It is important to find which style of dance calls to your soul, as in Billy Elliot Source: movie title
Director: Stephen Daldry
Synopsis: In 1984, 11-year old Billy Elliot shared his home in the North of England with his father, brother and ailing grandmother – who once dreamt of being a dancer.
One day, during his weekly boxing lessons – which he abhors, Billy finds himself sharing the room with ballet dancers.
Billy quickly realizes that dance is his true passion, running the risk of mockery and judgment of his family and townspeople.
If you love ballet, this one is not to be missed!
Dance Style: Ballet Dance (classical dance).
Where to find it: under £7 new on Amazon.
If you have a passion for ballet, have a read of our post on the most famous ballets.
Black Swan is a documentary-fiction about the rigours a ballet dancer must endure Source: movie title
Directed by: Darren Aronovsky
Synopsis: A ballerina with the New York Ballet, Nina learns that auditions for the main role of Swan Lake are open. The only problem is that although she is perfect as the White Swan, she cannot seem to represent the dark side of the Black Swan.
Because of the pressure of the role, Nina will eventually lose her mind and no longer know what is real…
Footnote: The real world’s best dance choreographers are far from being as harsh as Vincent Cassel!
Featured dance style: Classical dance.
Where you can find it: a new DVD, for under five pounds, on Amazon.
Directed by: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Synopsis: In 1927, Don and Lina are the undisputed stars of silent cinema. However, the arrival of the talkies throws their bankability as movie stars into question, especially because, despite appearances, they hate each other in real life.
What’s more, Lina is cursed with an unpleasantly nasal voice! Don’s best friend, Cosmo, then has an idea: replace Lina with Kathy, of whom Don is enamored with.
Dance Styles: Tap dance, lyric dance, ballroom dance, jazz dance, Broadway dance.
Availability: £8 new, on Amazon.
Directed by Stephen Soderbergh
Synopsis: surviving on odd jobs, Mike, 30, rounds out his meager pay by performing in a strip club under the name Magic Mike. Although much appreciated by the female audience, Mike’s side job worries his sister, who warns him of the dangers of night work.
If the film and its music to dance does not make you move your body, we’d be hard-pressed to say what could!
Dance styles featured: stripping, cabaret jazz, pole dancing.
Where to get it: for around £6 on Amazon.
Directed by: Herbert Ross
Synopsis: uprooted from his native Chicago, Ren finds himself stifled in the religious community his family relocated to. Even more, culture-shocking: the pastor – the most influential person in town, opposes music and dancing in any form, considering both immoral.
Ren rallies the community’s youth to protest for their senior prom, with one surprising ally taking the lead, in the uprising and in his heart.
Featured dance styles: freestyle, krumping, grooving.
Availability: £6 for a copy of the 1984 DVD version on Amazon. You can also purchase its 2011 remake for around the same price.
Will you too find Fame as a dancer? Source: movie title
Directed by: Alan Parker
Synopsis: the plot revolves around the adventures of several dancers seeking enrolment at the High School for Performing Arts in New York City. The audition process yields few entries.
For Coco, Lisa, Hilary and Montgomery, over time, the film reveals their dreams of fame, a pinnacle that only few ever achieve.
This film is a showcase of dance talent!
Featured dance styles: ballet, contemporary, modern and lyrical
Where to find it: On Amazon, for the low price of £3; or you could seek the updated 2009 version for just 40p more.
Follow this romantic story, set to a background of cabaret dancing Source: Movie title
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Synopsis: At the dawn of the 20th century, Christian, a young poet, decides to write a piece for the Cabaret du Moulin Rouge under the advice of Toulouse Lautrec. During his meeting with Satine, the protagonist of the dance show, Christian develops romantic feeling fo her despite her being coveted by the Duke of Monroth, a wealthy man wishing to acquire the Moulin Rouge.
Featured dance styles: cabaret, can-can.
Where to find it: a new DVD can be purchased for just under £4 on Amazon
Whether beginner level, intermediate level or advanced level: you will invariably find a feature film adapted to your abilities and aspirations for dance; your desires and your artistic tastes.
Should you be preparing for a performance in dance, a dancing party or even a ball, there are dozens of films to inspire your dance moves.
Parting shot: which dance movie is the line “Nobody puts baby in the corner” drawn from?
You got it: Dirty Dancing!
Honorable mention for dance films go to:
Enough talk about dancing; to your leotards… or unitards, as you prefer!
If you enjoyed this article, why not take a look at our blog on famous quotations about dance?