Dancing is probably one of the best forms of expression next to writing and music.
Individuals like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gregory Hines and Vera-Ellen propelled dance movies in the limelight. Even though these individuals are no longer here, the impact that they made on the film industry still lives on.
Break dancing crashed onto the scene in the 1970s. The movie Breakin’ is just one of the many films, that helped increase the popularity of break dancing. The film stars Adolfo Quinones, Michael Chambers, Lucinda Dickey, Timothy Solomon, Bruno Falcon and Ana Sanchez. The storyline is a mix between The Outsiders and West Side Story. Two star crossed lovers (Ozone & Kelly) from different sides of the track find comfort with one another through dance.
On top of some unique dance sequences and tricks, Breakin’ deals with a variety of issues. Rivalry, love, race and jealousy are just some of the issues touched upon in the film. Breakin’ may not have been a blockbuster at the box office, but it did break barriers for dancers in the African American and Puerto Rican community.
Fame wasn’t a huge success at the box office in terms of numbers, but the film did inspire many individuals nationwide. The plot focuses on a group of poor kids who attend the New York City High School for the Performing Arts (The school is now known as Fiorello H. LaGuardia H.S.). The film follows these students on their journey to attain degrees in their respective fields. Drugs, sex, homosexuality and poverty are just some of the issues that this film tackles. The film became so popular that it inspired a TV show, with the same name, 2 years later.
Some of the cast members from the film migrated to the series, but most opted out of the show. Even though the film was released over 28 years ago, its signature song “Fame” by Irene Cara, is still heard on the radio today. Even though a Fame remake is being released this fall, the original will always be responsible for breaking barriers in the dance community.
Dirty Dancing (1987)
Teen girls ran to the theaters in 1987 to see heartthrob Patrick Swayze shirtless. The film was originally rated R, but the filmmakers went in a different direction in order to cater to Swayze’s teen fan base. The powers that be ultimately altered some scenes thus giving the film its current PG-13 rating. The film also stars Jennifer Grey, Cynthia Rhodes and Jerry Orbach.
It’s the summer of 1963 and Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) meets and falls in love with Johnny– a hothead dance instructor. Viewers are taken along Frances’ journey from a sheltered girl into a refined young woman. Dirty Dancing is a fun-filled dance film coupled with a superb soundtrack to match.
Footloose is loosely based on the events that took place in an Oklahoma town. Kevin Bacon stars as Ren McCormack. Ren is the typical teenager who only wants to play by his rules. McCormack and his family moved from Chicago to a small rural town that has banned dance and Rock music. McCormack refuses to conform to the rules. Instead he starts a crusade to get these strict and unjust rules lifted.
Footloose has some of the best routines and sequences in a dance film. Bacon’s dance solo in a barn is one of the film’s best moments. Another classic moment is when Ren McCormack tries to teach his friend Willard (Chris Penn) how to dance. No 80s film would be complete without a love story. Ren tries to woo undercover bad girl Ariel (Lori Singer) away from her controlling boyfriend. Even though his efforts are successful, they don’t come without consequences. John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest and Sarah Jessica Parker also star in this hit 80s film. The soundtrack for Footloose includes a myriad of hits that are bound to get you dancing in your seat.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Disco was elevated to a new level thanks to Saturday Night Fever. The film stars John Travolta as Tony Manero. Tony is an Italian Brooklynite with a lazy mentality and mesmerizing dance moves. Even though there seemed to be more chaos then dancing in the movie, Saturday Night Fever is a classic. Tony is “Mr. Popular” at the club 2001 Odyssey. However, the only thing that Tony seems to care about is Tony. Monero gets more than he bargains for when he encounters Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) at 2001 Odyssey one night. Tony’s love of himself and dance soon turn into love for Stephanie.
Even if you’ve never seen the film, people around the world always recognize that polyester white suit Travolta sported. After winning the dance contest under false pretenses, Tony has a revelation. His self-revelation goes even deeper after tragedy strikes under his watch. The soundtrack for the film played a huge part in its success. The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is one of the best-selling albums of all time. The album features some of the most renowned songs from the Bee Gees. “Stayin’ Alive”, “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Night Fever” are just some of the songs on the soundtrack.
Most of these movies, if not all, never really received the recognition they deserved. People didn’t appreciate movies that focused on dance in those days. Today, there are more and more television producers and filmmakers focusing on dance. Even if you can’t appreciate a good dance movie, I’m certain you’ll be able to appreciate the music that comes along with it.