The Greatest Dance Movies of All Time, According to the Dance Magazine Staff

Seventy one years ago 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

Watch It: On YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes

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

Watch It: On YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes

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

Watch It: On Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play

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

Watch It: YouTube, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes

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

Watch It: On Sony Crackle (free!), Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play

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Luke Isley, Courtesy Ballet West

How Do Choreographers Bring Something Fresh to Music We've Heard Over and Over?

In 2007, Oregon Ballet Theatre asked Nicolo Fonte to choreograph a ballet to Maurice Ravel's Boléro. "I said, 'No way. I'm not going near it,' " recalls Fonte. "I don't want to compete with the Béjart version, ice skaters or the movie 10. No, no, no!"

But Fonte's husband encouraged him to "just listen and get a visceral reaction." He did. And Bolero turned into one of Fonte's most requested and successful ballets.

Not all dance renditions of similar warhorse scores have worked out so well. Yet the irresistible siren song of pieces like Stravinsky's The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, as well as the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, seem too magnetic for choreographers to ignore.

And there are reasons for their popularity. Some were commissioned specifically for dance: Rite and Firebird for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Boléro for dance diva Ida Rubinstein's post–Ballets Russes troupe. Hypnotic rhythms (Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel) and danceable melodies (Bizet's Carmen) make a case for physical eye candy. Audience familiarity can also help box office receipts. Still, many choreographers have been sabotaged by the formidable nature and Muzak-y overuse of these iconic compositions.

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