x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dance styles come and go, but the films they inspire still enchant

We take a look at the popularity of dance movies and run down 10 of the best films that have inspired us to find our inner performer.

John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

With Step Up Revolution currently storming box offices around the world, it's safe to say that the "dance movie" is as popular as it's ever been. Despite the latest fashions, beats and 3D, this subgenre of cinema is certainly not a new concept; dance movies have been making stars out of unknown actors for years. But just what makes a great dance film? A charismatic lead? Energetic routines? A catchy soundtrack? Here's our list of the 10 "must-see" dance movies from four decades of music, moves and memories.

10 Save the Last Dance (2001)

Actress Julia Stiles (from the Bourne trilogy) finds her groove starring as a troubled former ballet dancer in a new city, who falls for a local black student and talented hip-hop club dancer (Sean Patrick Thomas), leading them to face racial tension and their own demons. An early example of a mainstream hip-hop-themed movie, it paved the way for many modern dance movies.

9 Shall We Dance? (1996)

Proving it's not only Hollywood that can produce a great dance movie, this Japanese-made film stars Kôji Yakusho as a depressed businessman who finds happiness while secretly learning ballroom dancing. A superbly unique take on a well-explored subgenre, it features incredibly well-written characters and a universal theme of finding happiness. Sadly, America could not recapture the magic and the film was remade into a tepid 2004 film of the same name, starring Jennifer Lopez, Susan Sarandon and Richard Gere.

8 Strictly Ballroom (1992)

We now travel to Australia for Baz Luhrmann's debut feature, the first in his red-curtain trilogy that was followed by Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! Based on a play, the film follows an Australian ballroom dancer (Paul Mercurio) who struggles to develop his own controversial style of dance and turn a mousy local girl (Tara Morice) into a championship-winning partner. Hilarious and tender, it stands up two decades on from its release.

7 Fame (1980)

Playing like a guidebook for any artist, Fame, which won an Oscar for its title song, follows the ups and downs of a group of performing arts students looking to "make it" during three years at a prestigious New York school. Interestingly dark in places (most famously the scene where the student Coco has a terrible screen test) it has a balance of musical energy and melodrama that makes it a dance movie benchmark to this day.

6 Flashdance (1983)

Though not known for being a classic movie, the style of this story about an aspiring dancer who works as a welder during the day while building towards her dream, has influenced many films to this day. The first to feature a "music video" style of editing, it made an icon of its star Jennifer Beals and was the first blockbuster for the super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

5 Step Up (2006)

Another "urban boy meets ballet girl" story, this time in the guise of Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan (who became involved offset and are married to this day). Formulaic but entertaining, the first film in this ongoing franchise is responsible for the current slew of street dance movies hitting our screens.

4 Billy Elliot (2000)

Nominated for numerous Oscars, this British comedy-drama centres on the title character of Billy (Jamie Bell), a coal miner's son from the north of England with a passion for ballet that offers him a chance for a better future. A lot more sombre than many entries on this list, it is nonetheless a moving and often hilarious look at the freeing power of pursuing your dream.

3 Footloose (1984)

The very right to dance is at stake in the movie that launched Kevin Bacon. He plays a city boy who comes to a deeply religious town that has banned rock music and dancing. He must go up against the community's stern religious leader (John Lithgow) to fight for the youth of the town. Not only a vivid, typically 1980s classic, it features an incredible soundtrack and inspired a slightly less wonderful 2011 remake.

2 Saturday Night Fever (1977)

Many movies can claim to have inspired a cultural revolution, but this late 1970s drama kick-started the disco phenomenon and got a generation doing "that dance". John Travolta stars in a career-defining role as Tony Manero, a young Brooklyn man escaping the harsh realities of his life in the disco clubs of New York. There's no denying its quality or influence.

1 Dirty Dancing (1987)

It's hard to believe Patrick Swayze nearly turned down his most famous role, as a suave dance instructor who helps a shy young girl (Jennifer Grey) discover life, love and "dirty dancing". Filled with classic scenes, wonderful music and several classic lines (all together now: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner!"), it's as captivating now as it's ever been, and high on anyone's list of perfect "chick flicks".

Step Up Revolution in 3D will open in UAE cinemas tomorrow.