Dance Movies That Actually Inspire You to Dance
Dance is a thing of happiness for most, but what films actually convey that feeling?
To me, dance is life-affirming hobby that I’ve had since I was in my teens. Dance makes me feel alive like few other things. Needless to say, I love dance films. Yet, over the years, I’ve found very few that I like. As I’m currently working on writing some dance films/musicals I used it as the perfect excuse to watch dance films again.
As I watched snippets of some films, rewatched others, despaired ten minutes into yet others, I started pondering what separated the good dance films from the bad ones, the good cinematography from the bad and so forth. So let’s have a look at what themes, beauty and disappointments can be found in dance films.
People appear to love certain themes in dance movies. Ever seen the following?
- Rich kid meets poor kid and bond over (different) dance styles
- Kid needs to get into a dance school/company and has to overcome something to do so
- Kid needs to win a competition
- Two dance styles merge (usually linking to no. 1 on this list)
- One person is teaching another to dance
- Dance is used to sort someone’s life out/finding purpose
Even if we go all the way back to Dirty Dancing, it’s about a rich kid who meets a not so rich kid and bond over dance, albeit this time the rich kid doesn’t already know how to dance.
The Good v.s. the Bad
There are many elements that make up a good dance film but the four main ones are:
One would think that the above four go hand-in-hand and indeed they do in the best productions, but many films seem to be lacking in one or more of the above. I watched Make It Happen yesterday and was wondering why I hadn’t heard of it before while I was watching it? There was some inspired choreography (think Magic Mike, with less dry humping, and women instead of men), the acting wasn’t half bad and the cinematography was good.
Then I woke up this morning and realized I remembered very little of the movie. The plot fell flat. It wasn’t totally unrealistic, or had lines that made you cringe. It was just plain. There was nothing that made it magical. You weren’t that involved in the characters — you were a faraway spectator.
On the other hand, I was awake half the night watching Magic Mike. I remember the first time I watched it I loved the cinematography and I thought they took a gamble by making it so slow paced, yet I thought it was a good movie. This time, I was struck once more by how you got to know the characters. I cared about the characters. Well, I cared about Mike.
The second Magic Mike movie I watched on a plane and I don’t remember being impressed, on the other hand. I remember noting “there were some good moments.”
What really got to me, apart from some notes about choreographies and cinematography, is that you have to fall in love with the characters. Make It Happen is meticulously executed, yet it falls flat. You don’t feel the characters. It’s a plain story, because you only glimpse their lives; scratch the surface. In Step Up (the first one that is), you feel for the guy. You step into his life. You don’t just watch, you feel.
My Favorite Dance Films
With all the above in mind, I have a list of films I love.
Firstly, there’s Dirty Dancing. It’s the first dance film I watched that touched my heart and soul. It made me get up and dance. It also happened to be when I was fourteen and had just started dancing myself. It’s a simple story, but you feel it. And the sexy choreography is legendary. No one puts Baby in a corner! Indeed!
Then, there’s the above-mentioned phenomena named Channing Tatum. Step Up and Magic Mike are both great films. There’s actually not that many interesting choreographies in Step Up, but you feel the film. And it was done before everyone else tried to do the whole ballet meets street dancing thing.
Musicals. We’ve got some inspired ones there too. Moulin Rouge, The Greatest Showman and La La Land are the ones that stand out to me. They all have great cinematography, but Moulin Rouge and La La Land are definitively more interesting in how they’re put together. I loved the fairytale feel to The Greatest Showman too — it’s beautiful. What’s more, that movie makes me happy. I walked out of the cinema thinking I still had a show in me.
There are many musicals and I can’t claim to have seen them all, but those are the ones I’ve watched and loved. That's not to say they aren't cliché at all...they are in some ways. But they are great movies too.
I just started watching the series Flesh and Bone as well and so far it looks promising, but it is very dark. It’s not the kind of thing you watch to lift your spirits — on the contrary, it’s very hard to watch. But it’s well made and you certainly feel for the main character.
Another movie I enjoyed was Burlesque, however, I can’t remember much of it. It was the kind of light-hearted entertainment you forget in a week, or two. Save the Last Dance is also a well-made movie. It doesn't have that much dancing in it, but it's well-written and executed. If you just want to watch dancing the first Central Stage movie has plenty of it, but the plot is not exactly rejuvenating.
That’s it. Those are the films I recommend. Some others are good enough for a rainy day, or to have some fun watching dancing, but they are possibly not the kind of movies that will make you jump out of bed and start dancing!