Courtney’s Guilty Pleasures-Dance Flicks

There are few things I find more irritating than tired cliches in movies. However, in stark contrast to my usual hipper-than-thou cynical attitude, I have to come clean and admit that I hold a very soft spot for one of the most hackneyed genres in Hollywood – the dance flick.

I suppose it’s not that strange of a guilty pleasure. After all, from a young age I fantasized about a life in which I’d be some dowdy (but glamorously beautiful underneath it all) heroine with years of classical ballet training. I’d get swept off my feet by the school’s resident bad boy (of course, he’d have an uncharacteristic passion for b-boying or disco or the Charleston – some less traditional and more fun form of dance.) But our relationship would only work if we could get over our differences and find that special spark that can only lead to physics-defying choreography.

Coincidentally, this happens to be the classic dance flick plot. Some form of it is featured in such films as Dirty Dancing, Grease, Save the Last Dance, Step Up, and the High School Musical trilogy.

But I have a feeling that my love for Saturday Night Fever, Footloose,

Just remember – Flashdance sold way more legwarmers than your favorite movie.

and Center Stage spreads far beyond mere fantasy fulfillment. It’s not that I love the movies and their corny storylines as much as I truly appreciate dance as an art form above acting and even music itself. I can’t stand reality shows, especially American Idol-esque competitions, but every week I delight myself to America’s Best Dance Crew and So You Think You Can Dance. It’s as though I enjoy dancing more than I mind trite dialogue and uninspired character development, and, trust me on this, that’s saying an awful lot.

Any terrible movie is, in my opinion, made worth watching once for a nicely choreographed sequence. As much as I never want to watch She’s All That ever again in my life, I do YouTube the prom scene from time to time for a smile. (You know the scene I’m talking about. It’s horrendously contrived, but that’s precisely why it’s a guilty pleasure.) Even an already good film can be infinitely better with the addition of a dance. Case in point: Slumdog Millionaire. There is some controversy over whether the Bollywood number during the credits was necessary, but I vote that it added more flavor and ultimately made the film more memorable to me.

But skip over the musical sequences out of any dance-heavy movie, and it becomes disturbingly obvious just how bad the writing and acting truly are.

Would anyone honestly care about Baby’s banal infatuation with Johnny Castle if there was no mambo involved? Probably not – that’s where the heat is. Would Tracy Turnblad be as endearing a heroine if she didn’t have her trademark moves? She’d never have the influence over people to make a difference. And what the heck would all the brooding Center Stage kids be doing if they couldn’t dance? Most of them would not be acting – I know that for sure.

Yes, he’s leaping. But it’s a very manly leap!

I don’t know exactly what it is about dancing that allows me to forgive crappy writing. I’m not much of a dancer

myself, and it’s not as though I find these stories to be particularly motivating. But just as some people like baseball

movies and others enjoy romantic comedies without irony, I just can’t get enough of those dance flicks!

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to update my Fame countdown, and I don’t care how much you ridicule me for that!


  1. A dance movie that breaks the mold is the original “Shall We Dance?”-not the richard gere remake. A japanese salaryman bored with life and family sees a beautiful dance instructor, and on a whim signs up to lean ballroom dancing. He joins a crowd of misfits and learns eventually to take pleasure in dancing itself.

    It’s a sweet inversion of the traditional dance movie. The protagonist is an older, married man, and it’s less about getting the girl or winning the competition than using dance to reconnect to and appreciate life.

    Your article is going to make me add even more to instant viewing. I’d forgotten how often I watched 80’s dance flicks, and it’s past time for a reviewing.

    • Now adding Shall We Danceto my Netflix queue! The role-inversion is definitely intriguing, and it sounds like it’s really about how dance can help someone spiritually instead of on a more superficial level. Thanks!!


  2. My friends roll their eyes at me for liking the HSM movies, but the director was the choreographer for Shag (another awesome dance movie) and Dirty Dancing.

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