It’s a magical thing that the social media age we live in has made it possible for us to see what dance looks like around the world at any given moment. A quick click on a hashtag transports us to any dance community in the world! It’s crazy to think that fifteen years ago that wasn’t the case...And in those times, kids....we had DANCE MOVIES!!
Fantastical or dramatic, the way dance is portrayed in cinema is a great way to look into the past, present, and future climate of the art! As the resident movie geek here at Tap That...I present a little must-watch list of some of my favorite dance movies:
CENTER STAGE (2000) Starring: Amanda Schull, Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky, Zoe Saldana
Listen...if someone ever makes a list of their favorite dance movies and doesn’t include Center Stage...they cannot be trusted!!! This flick is simultaneously magical and true-to-life, ridiculous and relatable, and dated yet timeless! Any dance movie that casts professional dancers as its leads already has my full support before I’ve even walked in the theater, yet another reason to cherish this movie forever! There is a 100% chance that post-viewing, you will want to paint a pair of point shoes red and create your ultimate dream dance sequence.
TAP (1989) Starring: Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., Suzzanne Douglas, Steve Condos, Sandman Simms...and a handful of other Tap Masters!!
Where to begin with this masterpiece? Hands down one of my favorite opening scenes in any film—dance genre and beyond! Gregory Hines’ artistry is immortalized in this iconic piece of tap history, alongside priceless footage of some of the greatest tap dancers whomever lived. The dance sequences are electrifying and heartfelt from beginning to end, and I’d argue that such reverence for tap dance has yet to be captured in a popular film ever since.
BLACK SWAN (2010) Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Benjamin Millepied, Vincent Cassel
Taking a turn to the darker side of dance cinema here...nearly ten years after its release I am still chilled to the bone by Black Swan! It’s a gritty but unfortunately all too real look into the mind of a prima ballerina dealing with the many pressures stemming from a desire to be “the best”. It’s a wildly surreal dive into the parts of dance that no one really cares to discuss. Portman and Kunis have my forever respect after their performances in this film, it’s a rare occurrence of non-dancer actors doing justice to the art we devote our lives to!
WHITE NIGHTS (1985) Starring: Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov (aka the ultimate “name a better duo”)
I mean...how does it get any better than this? While I have to face that, on paper, its plot and Rotten Tomatoes score don’t draw in a modern audience, it still blows my mind that some people don’t see this film as required viewing! For the sake of all that is dance-y, please watch it for the scene with Hines and Baryshnikov gliding across the floor together to a glorious 80’s power ballad!! Two legends from completely different walks of life perfectly matched on screen. *chef’s kiss*
FAME (1980) Starring: Irene Cara, Debbie Allen, Gene Anthony Ray, Lee Curreri
One last hoorah for the classics!! Though I definitely viewed and clung to the 2009 remake like it was my job as a 15-year-old, nothing tops the 1980 original. The overflowing talent in Fame garnered 16 award nominations and seven wins (with a cast of fresh new faces instead of a bunch of recognizable Hollywood personalities...imagine that...). I wanted to leave musicals out of this list (I could create a completely separate one with all those opinions!!) but this one feels too important to overlook. It’s a raw coming of age tale as much as it is a song and dance spectacle, and now you have the title song stuck in your head!!
That’s it for now, but I could talk about the many dance gems of the silver screen all day! Send me your recommendations and don’t @ me for being too scared to watch Suspiria!! I’ll bite the bullet and do it one day!!