The Top Ten Best Dance Film Scenes

Dance Films

Who doesn’t love a dance film? For uplifting moves and some real great tunes, you can always rely on a good dance film to perk you up. It’s no surprise that many dancers get their first interest in the world of movement from seeing an actor bust a move on the big screen. Everyone’s got a film that made them fall in love with dance.

To find out which dance film we are most in love with, we conducted a survey amongst dance film fans – and the results weren’t all that surprising! Read on to find out which dance films have the best dance scenes, and sit back and watch our favourite big screen heroes strut their stuff!

10. Fame (1980)

In at number ten is American musical classic Fame. With music by Michael Gore and choreography by MTV dance instructor Louis Falco, it’s no wonder this film has also been ranked in Entertainment Weekly’s top 50 Best High School Movies.

9. Step Up (2006)

Showcasing one of heartthrob Channing Tatum’s breakthrough roles, Step Up follows the story of two very different dancers in two very different social classes, and who must rely on each other to cement their professional futures.

8. Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Say what you like about John Travolta – the man has got some moves. In at number 8 on our list was his solo dance scene in Saturday Night Fever, in which he takes to a gloriously fabulous lighted stage in an equally fabulous pair of flares and dances the club to a standstill.

7. West Side Story (1961)

You can’t get more iconic than that opening scene – two rival gangs who ‘fight’ by pulling off some slick dance moves in front of each other. For style, grace and stone cold coolness, West Side Story is the quintessential retro dance film.

6. Footloose (1984)

It’s not great in the world of musical-drama Footloose – upbeat Chicago teen Ren has moved to a small town in which rock music and dancing have been banned under the order of a local minister.
There’s plenty of feel-good dance numbers in this, but of course what made number 7 was the dance to the film’s catchy theme tune. And it really is a toe-tapper!

5. Flashdance (1983)

Despite the fact that it opened to negative reviews by critics, Flashdance became a box-office hit and is now one of the best-loved dance films ever made. And the dance scene that made this list? It has to be that iconic finale, in which Alex dances for all she is worth. What a feeling!

4. Grease (1978)

It’s another appearance on this list for John Travolta – this time in 1978 classic Grease. There’s so many great dance scenes to choose from – but what made number four in our list was that toe-tapping classic Greased Lightning.

3. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Yet another film starring John Travolta! And it’s another iconic dance scene from the Tarantino blockbuster. Even though it’s not quite as complicated as some of the other dance scenes on this list, it’s still a favourite at weddings even now – and you can’t say it’s not memorable.

2. Singing in the Rain (1952)

You can’t have a list about the best dance scenes without Singing in the Rain – so here it is, in at number two. And the scene which everyone loves so much? Of course, it’s Gene Kelly singing – and dancing – in the rain!

1. Dirty Dancing (1987)

Don’t tell us you’re surprised – the most loved dance film scene comes from Patrick Swayze romance flick Dirty Dancing. The coming of age drama is one of the most loved dance films ever made – and who can’t fall in love with this final dance scene?

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Busby Berkeley

Busby BerkeleyBusby Berkeley, born November 29 1895 (died March 14 1976) was a highly influential Hollywood director and musical choreographer, famous for his elaborate musical production numbers that involved complex choreography through geometric patterns. Berkeley’s works used large numbers of showgirls and props as fantasy elements in on-screen performances which were both captivating and impressive.

Berkeley made his stage debut aged five, acting in the company of his performing family. Following his serving in World War I, during the 1920s Berkeley became a dance director for nearly 30 Broadway musicals. As a choreographer, Berkeley was more interested in his chorus girls’ ability to form attractive geometric patterns, creating an awe-inspiringly regimented display perhaps inspired by his army experiences. However, his audiences experiencing the Great Depression of America made Berkeley very popular, and he went on to choreograph four musicals back-to-back for Warner Bros.: 42nd Street, Footlight Parade, Gold Diggers of 1933 and Fashions of 1934.

For his choreographic work, Berkeley began to develop his theatrical techniques for the musical numbers of films, such as Samuel Goldwyn’s Eddie Cantor musicals. Here he trialled and extended techniques such as the “parade of faces” in which each chorus girl’s face was shot with an individual, loving close-up. He also began to move his dancers around the stage, and later beyond the stage in shooting highly cinematic shots containing as many kaleidoscopic patterns as possible. The ‘top shot’ filming technique, shot from above, became synonymous with Berkeley’s work, another kaleidoscope shot which also appeared in the Cantor films.

As a choreographer Berkeley was allowed much independence in his direction of musical numbers, yet they were often in great contrast to the narrative sections of the films, focusing on decoration and the aesthetics of dance and glamour. Many of his innovative creations have been heavily analysed, some critiqued for their display, or perhaps exploitation, of the female form as seen through the “male gaze”. However Berkeley always denied any significance of his work, arguing that his main professional goals were to constantly improve his work and never repeat his past accomplishments.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Jazz Master: Jack Cole

Jack ColeJack Cole, one of the greatest yet least known jazz choreographers is thought of by some as the father of theatrical jazz dance, responsible for the jazz we know today. He was the influencer behind huge choreographic names such as Bob Fosse, with his work reaching the likes of modern dance greats Alvin Ailey and Jerome Robbins. Cole worked to create the style of jazz that is still widely received today, on Broadway, in Hollywood movie musicals and in music videos.

Cole was born in 1911 (he lived until 1974) and studied, as many did modern dance pioneers, with the Denishawn Dance Company under Ruth St Denis and Ted Shawn in the early twentieth century. Cole went on to make his professional debut in 1930, but abandoned modern dance for a more commercial style of dancing on Broadway and in movies. Jazz, at this point, was hugely popular, but did not employ any use of technique.

As a result, Cole began to create his own style of modern dance. He continued to work with modern dancers Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman to form a signature style. This style was aided by Cole’s study of the Indian dance technique Bharatanatyam, forming the basis of his unique jazz technique and choreography through the precise isolations of the head, arms and fingers, in addition to the swift changes of direction. Cole consequently named his jazz style ‘urban folk dance’, having observed the Lindy Hoppers and their integral rhythms, incorporating this with Indian styles and creating the foundation of the theatrical jazz style.

Cole’s choreography saw him involved in various Broadway shows, such as Alive and Kicking (1950), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962) and Man of La Macha (1965), for which he was nominated for a Tony award. However, today Cole is remembered for his work with films of some 25 credited and non-credited works. In addition to working as a choreographer and performer, Cole also established dance training at Columbia Pictures, in which his programme included Humphrey/Weidman technique, Cecchetti ballet, East Indian dance and flamenco, where he worked with dancers such as Carol Haney and Gwen Verdon, who went on to become Fosse’s muse.

Matt Mattox, the iconic jazz dancer and teacher most associated with the Cole style broke the Cole lineage in America when he moved to London in 1970. It has only been recently that there has been a renewed interest in Cole’s work.

Ballet’s Live Cinema Season 2013/14

The Royal BalletFollowing much success of previous live cinema seasons which first emerged in 2007, and even outdoor screenings of ballet productions, The Royal Ballet has released its live cinema season for 2013/14, much to the delight of ballet fans all over.

Five ballets will be presented in association with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, beginning in October with Don Quixote as a new production by Carlos Acosta, then moving to December with Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. January of the New Year will see Peter Wright’s Giselle hit the screens, Monica Mason and Christopher Newton’s The Sleeping Beauty in March and then closing in April with The Winter’s Tale, a new production by Christopher Wheeldon.

The ROH Live Cinema Season 2012/13 featured nine productions broadcast to more than 35 countries in over 900 cinemas worldwide. The UK network has grown from 45 sites in September 2009 to 240 sites in October 2012, making it one of the widest releases of alternative content in the cinema in the UK. The next season will then see the Live Cinema project thoroughly expanding through a new partnership with Mr Wolf Presents which will build on the achievements of Royal Opera House Cinema to date and accelerate global growth. Mr Wolf Presents produces, co-produces, finances and manages distribution of live events and music-based feature films.

It is estimated that the ROH Cinema Season will reach its widest ever global audience in the 2013/14 season, with five live ballets and five live operas. With over 32,000 people watching in the UK, The Nutcracker, which was broadcast live on Thursday 13 December 2012, was the second highest grossing film that night, sitting between The Hobbit and Skyfall in the UK Box Office chart. However, the best performing broadcast to date is the ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was broadcast live on Thursday 28 March with almost 40,000 people watching the screening in the UK.

Choros – A Pas De Trente Deux!


Today we are highlighting an incredibly hypnotic short film called Choros. Filmed in 2011 by Michael Langan & Terah Maher, Choros is a dizzying combination of music, dance and cinema where a single dancer (Maher) is “layered” over herself 32 times… in effect, a “pas de trente-deux”! Set to Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, the result is surreal, highly inventive and just plain beautiful to watch.

The filming of Choros references a historical technique called chronophotography, whcih used multiple photographs to enable the scientific study of a subject’s movement. However, Langan and Maher have advanced the technique in Choros through digital innovation, which has lead to multiple international awards since its launch.

Watching the full work requires freeing up some time as it lasts for 13 minutes, but we urge everyone to watch this truly stunning film… it is inspirational!

Theatreland Cinema

Digital Theatre & CinemaLiveSimilar to many ballet productions that have recently been screened in cinemas, it will be possible in the future to catch up with your favourite West End shows with a bucket of popcorn. Digital Theatre, which makes filmed theatre productions available for download online, and CinemaLive have paired up to screen some of the best of British theatre in UK cinemas, both new works and those from theatrical archives.

Digital Theatre has partnered with film producers CinemaLive and will present its first series of screenings in September 2013. No titles have been annoucned yet for the screening programme, but the focus will be primarily on West End productions, including David Tennant and Catherine Tate in Much Ado About Nothing and David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. In turn this will presumably make West End productions more accessible to larger audiences, however this may also decrease their unique exclusivity, and the singular experience of taking in a production in the heart of Theatreland. Despite this, opening up West End productions to other audiences may also increase revenue for theatres in inspiring audiences to see other and alternative productions that they may first have seen in the cinema.

Since the launch of National Theatre Live in 2009, theatre has had an increasingly regular presence in cinemas. In June 2013, NT Live will broadcast its first West End production, The Audience which stars Helen Mirren, following the lead of Graham McLaren’s production of Great Expectations, which was live-broadcasted its opening night around the UK. This took around £80,000 at the box office, emphasising the decline (or perhaps increase) of audiences visiting West End theatres, but ultimately expanding the possibilities by offering audiences another chance to catch past productions they might have missed.

Founded by Robert Delamere and Tom Shaw in 2009, Digital Theatre now hosts productions from some of the UK’s largest theatres, including the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company Shakespeare’s Globe and the Almeida theatre.