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The List: Best dance movies

- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 15, 2011

A remake of Kevin Bacon's 1984 dance movie "Footloose" opens in theaters on Oct. 18. This week, the List looks at the top 20 dance films.

  • 20. The Full Monty (1997) — The best scene is when the down-on-their-luck blue-collar guys break into dance in the dole line when Donna Summer's disco classic "Hot Stuff" comes on the radio.
  • 19. Flashdance (1983) — Jennifer Beals wasn't the greatest dancer, and three body doubles were used, but who can forget the onstage dance scene under the shower head? The critics hated the film, but it did well at the box office. In an ironic twist, Miss Beals played a welder in a steel mill seeking to be a ballet dancer.
  • 18. Jailhouse Rock (1957) — The dance scene for the title song in this Elvis Presley film was one of the great rock dance scenes ever, made long before MTV invented the music video.
  • 17. Chicago (2002) — This dynamic and stylish film had one dazzling number after another and proved that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger could really dance.
  • 16. Saturday Night Fever (1977) — When "Saturday Night Fever" opened on Dec. 16, 1977, a whole generation saw itself reflected in a mirrored disco ball. John Travolta taught us how to dance disco, while the Bee Gees' music dominated the pop charts.
  • 15. High School Musical (2006) — The plot was sweet and simple. The catchy song-and-dance numbers had teens jumping on their parents' furniture. This honest-to-goodness made-for-TV product, starring Zac Efron, became the most successful Disney Channel Original Movie ever produced.
  • 14. Step up (2006) — Channing Tatum starred with his future wife, Jenna Dewan, in this wholesome dance-themed romance. Mr. Tatum plays the rebellious hip-hop dancer who must partner with a ballerina played by Miss Dewan.
  • 13. Billy Elliott (2000) — The 11-year-old son of a coal miner aspires to be a dancer. How could we not choose a film that includes five T. Rex songs in the soundtrack?
  • 12. Dirty Dancing (1987) — This was one of Patrick Swayze's most iconic roles. The actor, dancer and singer-songwriter put all his talents to use as the dance instructor in "Dirty Dancing." The movie's finale, in which Mr. Swayze finally lifts Jennifer Grey up in the air, has been described more than once as "goose-bump-inducing" and is one of the best dance scenes in a nonmusical film.
  • 11. Mary Poppins (1964) — There are a number of great dance scenes in this Disney movie: Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke dancing with animated penguins. But by far the best one is the chimney-sweep dance scene on the rooftops of London to the song "Chim Chim Cher-ee."
  • 10. Bring It On (2000) — Kirsten Dunst won our hearts in this film. This inspirational high school fable whips up a rivalry between two Southern California squads competing for national cheerleading championships. Miss Dunst captains a team from San Diego and Gabrielle Union a team from Compton.
  • 9. Newsies (1992) — This forgotten Disney movie starring a young Christian Bale had newspaper delivery boys producing a number of fine dance sequences. Over the years, the film has gained a cult following.
  • 8. The Red Shoes (1948) — Loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, the film is beautifully crafted and magic on the eyes.
  • 7. Footloose (1984) — The pop-culture phenomenon grossed $80 million, made actor Kevin Bacon a household name and helped sell Kenny Loggins millions of albums.
  • 6. White Night (1985) — Mikhail Baryshnikov (a Russian defector) and Gregory Hines (an American tap dancer) combine to escape the Soviet Union. Artistic vision and political idealism collide as the two great dancers make a decision that will change their lives forever. In one scene, Mr. Baryshnikov performs 11 pirouettes in a row.
  • 5. Shall We Dance (1937) — A great Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film from the set that included most of the duo's best work: "Top Hat," "Follow the Fleet" and "Swing Time" in the mid-1930s.
  • 4. Oliver! (1968) — The dance scene accompanying the song "Who Will Buy," as Oliver watches London awaken, is one of the best-choreographed scenes in movie history.
  • 3. Top Hat (1935) — A best-dance movie list would not be complete without this Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film. It turned out to be their most successful movie. Astaire performs his most celebrated tap solo to the song "Top Hat, White Tie and Tails."
  • 2. West Side Story (1961) — Whoever thought a gang film could look so charming? The dance scenes with Russ Tamblyn, the leader of the Jets gang, and George Chakiris, the leader of the Sharks, made this "Romeo and Juliet" story a film classic.
  • 1. Singing in the Rain (1952) — The undisputed greatest dance movie of all time. It's been written that on the day the iconic dance scene was shot, Gene Kelly had a temperature of 103 F but refused to go home. It only took one take.
  • Bonus material: Jon Heder's dance scene at the conclusion of the wonderful film Napoleon Dynamite (2004) is not to be missed. Also, the spontaneous dance celebration — if one can call it a dance — in the fountain in Central Park at the opening of Godspell (1973) to the song "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" will have you jumping up and down.

Compiled by John Haydon, who as a waiter in New York City in the 1980s served dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tommy Tune.

Sources:, The Washington Times, Associated Press,,, and

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