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
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"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.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.