That’s Entertainment! Iconic Dance Scenes in Films and Television

Dance sequences in film and television can leave a lasting impact on pop culture. When the right combination of choreography, music, and visuals come together, the results can be unforgettable. Some performances become iconic, perfectly capturing the essence of their time while showcasing the incredible talent of the performers. 

Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the most legendary big and small-screen dance moments. From delightful musical numbers to humorous sitcom interludes and even zombie marches, we will explore the beloved choreography that has become synonymous with pop culture thanks to the magical blend of movement, music, and meaning.

In Dance Films and Musicals

In dance films and musicals, the musical genre provides an opportunity for iconic dance sequences to take centre stage. In this article, we will discuss three such sequences that elevated the art form. 

The first sequence pays homage to the 1920s spectacle, the second modernises the jazz era for millennials, and the third is a whimsical contemporary tribute.

In the 1952 film Singin' in the Rain, the "Broadway Melody" sequence features legendary hoofer Gene Kelly dancing in the rain. He sloshes through puddles, crosses wet streets with an umbrella, and even swings from a lamppost while crooning about the glamour of showbiz. The performance captures the grand Depression-defying Busby Berkeley aesthetics in one entry.

And then, there's the unforgettable twist contest scene from Pulp Fiction, where Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace and John Travolta's Vincent Vega take the dance floor. With Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell" playing in the background, the duo showcases a blend of the twist and a dance move known as the "Jack Rabbit Slim's Twist Contest." This iconic sequence not only brings a touch of retro nostalgia to the film but also exemplifies Tarantino's ability to infuse unexpected dance moments into his narrative seamlessly. It has become an enduring part of cinematic history.

Fast forward to today, and La La Land continues the tradition for modern audiences. The opener, "Another Day of Sun," dazzles as a freeway song and dance extravaganza and has won an award for Best Scene. However, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's performance in "A Lovely Night" as Mia and Sebastian truly stand out. The mesmerizing scene unfolds as the couple takes an after-dinner stroll through Griffith Park. Their rapid-fire tap steps echo through the park as they engage in rhythmic banter and faux dramatic faces. Their tapping toes channel decades of cinematic tradition in a contemporary context. The simple yet skilled tap choreography allows their natural chemistry to shine. 


Now, we turn our gaze to the small screen. A much different vehicle for stories told through episodic installments, television nonetheless has dance interludes that leave their mark.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, an icon of 90s television, made excellent use of Will Smith's youthful charm and hip-hop background. Smith's signature move, created spontaneously on set during a dance-off with his on-screen nephew Carlton, became a part of pop culture history. As he pats his knees and swings his arms in an off-beat manner to motivate Carlton, the studio audience erupts in laughter. This move is now widely known as the Carlton dance.

From slick 30-minute comedies to a variety of sketch shows, memorable television dance breaks provide delightful peeks into beloved characters. 

In a musical dream sequence, Barney and Robin from How I Met Your Mother give Cleveland a taste of their moves as they dance to Deee-Lite's funky "Groove is in the Heart." Their quirky choreography perfectly captures the characters' hidden chemistry. As Barney twirls Robin, she responds with silly wiggles, and their smiles give way to heartfelt gazes. They know how to party!

And delivering delightfully dark whimsy to a new generation, young Jenna Ortega enthralled audiences with her goofy, robotic, or perhaps zombie-like Wednesday Addams twist performance in the 2022 Netflix series. Gothic and gliding in black taffeta, she stirred viral adoration with creepy, kooky panache. It even got so popular to the point that Jenna confessed on Saturday Night Live that she didn't want to do the dance anymore!

Playing Favourites

Dance scenes stick with us, shaping pop culture in unforgettable ways. From movies to TV, they're more than just moves—they're a part of our shared experience. 

So, what's your go-to dance scene?