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25 Iconic Dance Sequences In Film

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist December 3, 2010 at 6:05AM

Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" hits theaters today, and it's easily one of the very best films of the year, and seemingly a culmination of everything that the director's been working towards for years. It's also a rarity, in that it's a serious film about dance -- in this case ballet.
10

"Young Frankenstein" (1974)
There are scenes on this list that will have you swooning with the romance of it all. There are scenes that have you blown away by the physical feats involved, or make you fight the urge to get up and dance yourself. But there's only one that can't fail to reduce anyone to howls of laughter -- "Puttin' On The Ritz" from Mel Brooks' classic comedy "Young Frankenstein." We've watched the scene, in which Gene Wilder's Frederick Frankenstein and his creation (Peter Boyle) perform Irving Berlin's song, countless times, and not once have we managed to make it past Boyle's first delivery of the titular line without collapsing into the kind of laughter that hurts the next day. If you haven't seen it, we won't spoil it here -- just make sure you're not at risk of doing a spit take, and watch below.

"Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986)
John Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is a movie which modulates effortlessly between triumphant teenage joy and more melancholic introspection (it’s the latter that makes every high school kid in America quote the film in their senior yearbook). The “Twist & Shout” sequence, in which Ferris (Matthew Broderick), looking to get a rise out of his Eeyore-ish pal Cameron (Alan Ruck) and smoking hot girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara), smuggles himself aboard a parade float and defiantly dances (despite the fact that he’s trying to keep a relatively low profile on his day of prolonged hooky-playing). Ferris sways with the background dancers and gamely lip-syncs to the bar mitzvah staple, his hair in a gravity-defying pompadour, and for both the audience of spectators watching the parade and the audience in the theaters, it’s a moment of pure cinematic ascension; you can't help but smile. As far as dance numbers go, this certainly isn't the most sophisticated or well choreographed. But then again, it's not supposed to: it's an impromptu act of innocuous teenage rebellion and the dance moves' lack of sophistication makes it all the more infectious (a marching band joins in, as does a builder working nearby, and Ferris' father, unaware of his son's involvement, even shimmies a little bit). Anyone who's ever skipped school has wished they could have accomplished something so awesome, especially while wearing such an awful vest.

"Band Of Outsiders" (1964)
While dance sequences and musicals were certainly not a new element to the film landscape in the 1960s, Jean Luc Godard's introduction of the random non-sequitur dance sequence may have been just one of the electric New Wave techniques he ushered in during his relatively brief, but arresting halcyon days (when you think about it, his reign only lasted from '59-'67). Would-be lovers and criminals Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur philosophize, plan their heist in a cafe over drinks and cigarettes, a jukebox number comes on (score by the great Michel Legrand) and then suddenly the trio fall in place with a chorus line-like dance for the '60s hipster set (now famously known as “The Madison dance”). So unexpected, the scene is certainly iconic and perhaps one of the more memorable sequences from the French New Wave. To wit, Quentin Tarantino named his production company A Band Apart -- Godard's guys-and-girl-plan-a-heist/ go-on-the lam film is called “Bande à part” in French -- and his “Pulp Fiction” dance sequence also feels like another hat tip. Semi-embarrassing/prideful extra credit: This writer once memorized this dance and skipped along to picture in his early salad days.

This article is related to: Films, Feature, Black Swan


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