The Greatest Dance Movies of All Time, According to the Dance Magazine Staff
Seventy one years age today, a new movie hit theaters: The Red Shoes. For a certain generation of dancers, this was the movie—the one that initially inspired them to step inside the studio.
For others, it was the first film they ever saw that finally "got" them. When Moira Shearer's character Victoria Page answers the question "Why do you want to dance?" with the response "Why do you want to live?" she channeled the inexplicable passion of thousands who dedicate their lives to this art.
Of course, many dance movies have followed in The Red Shoes' footsteps. But not all are created equal. We polled some of the Dance Magazine staff to find out what they rate as the G.O.A.T. of dance movies. It turns out, there was a pretty clear favorite in the office.
Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)
"Well, the fact is that Girls Just Want to Have Fun *is* the best dance movie, because in it we have a heroine who defies the odds, a teenage girl who defies her father, a less than 'it' girl who captures not only the 'it' guy but in doing so, a phenomenal dance partner who wins them a spot as regulars on D (dance) TV! So it's a female empowerment story wrapped in a contagiously fun '80s prep/punk aesthetic. And then there's the ode to Cyndi in the name..." —Joanna Harp, publisher/chief revenue officer
The Turning Point (1977)
"Where else are you going to find Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine rubbing elbows with the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov and Antoinette Sibley? Loads of gorgeous dancing, a drama-filled plot that feels way more realistic than most of what we've seen in dance films in the 21st century (so far), and what has to be the most hilariously nightmarish scene of drunken dancing in existence. Oh, and Alexandra Danilova nearly steals the whole show without dancing a step." —Courtney Escoyne, associate editor
Watch It: On Cinemax
West Side Story (1961)
"Of course, it premiered on Broadway first. But this Technicolor film version totally wraps you up in the drama—mixing full-body dance shots (thank you!) with emotional close-ups, and making sharp, musical cuts from the Jets to the Sharks and back again. Plus, it gave my obsessed teenage self the chance to watch Jerome Robbins' brilliant choreography over and over and over again. Steven Spielberg has his hands full if he's trying to top it next year, but I can't wait to see him give it a try." —Jennifer Stahl, editor in chief
Billy Elliot (2000)
"Everyone loves an underdog story, and this one has everything: chasing dreams, defying conventions, great acting, "electricity" and Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake!" —Michael Northrop, fact checker
An American in Paris (1951)
"Out of those old-school classics, this is the best. But anything that's got Gene Kelly or Busby Berkeley or Fred Astaire involved, I'm down. I know it's not technically dance, but I would love a redo of the gym scene in Gentleman Prefer Blondes. And I think one of my fav scenes is the modern dance scene in White Christmas that laments the move towards 'choreography.' Such an amazing time capsule. I love the old movies, but am looking forward to people reformatting them to better reflect modern times." —Jennifer Roit, Dance Magazine College Guide editor
Center Stage (2000)
"It's so validating to have a dance movie that is super-mainstream and is also actually a good movie! I love how it's almost become a cult classic over time, for dancers and nondancers alike. Plus, it introduced me to artists who I would grow to love onstage, not just onscreen, and to the funky tunes of Jamiroquai." —Lauren Wingenroth, associate editor
"I seriously think I've seen the movie over 100 times and remember teaching myself all the dance scenes to get up and do during the movie." —Suzi Schmitt, account executive
"It reminds me of summer intensives, watching with friends and trying to learn all the choreography." —Nicole Buggé, director of marketing services
"It has the perfect combination of teenage angst and ballet drama (that's not over-the-top à la Black Swan). Even today, it's still such a quotable guilty pleasure, and comes with the bonus built-in layer of 'Spot the Famous Dancer.' Who wouldn't want to catch glimpses of Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky and Julie Kent nearly 20 years back?" —Madeline Schrock, managing editor
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.