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8 Dance Movies Every Dancer Should See

Some of the best dancing ever has been on the silver screen! Here’s a list of 8 of the must-sees for dancers of every age and style:


8. The King and I

Originally a Rodger & Hammerstein musical, this 1956 film adaptation shows us the struggle a Welsh governess and teacher has while trying to educate the wives and children of the King of Siam. Opposites attract though, and a romance between the King and Anna, the governess, ensues. To a wonderful score of classic songs, the dancing in The King and I is a beautiful mixture of old Hollywood ballroom and eastern Asian styles.

Make sure you see: The memorable ballroom scene in which Anna and the King perform a romantic pas de deux to the song “Shall We Dance”. Also, the intriguing performance by the King’s court of the classic book Uncle Tom’s Cabin performed as a captivating dance theater production.


7. Footloose

This dance movie is so good, they made it twice! The original version was released in 1984 and the newer in 2011. Both are equally energetic and bursting with great dance. In the movie, city boy Ren moves to a small and sleepy country town where he learns rock music AND dancing are both illegal. He makes some friends who also want to challenge their town’s sheltered ways, and together they rebel. Eventually, the town realizes that self expression through music and dance are nothing to be scared of, and can bring us closer together.
Make sure you see: The hair-flipping, stomping, and rocking out that comes at the very end to the film’s original song, “Footloose”.


6. First Position

This documentary gives a real-life look inside the world of the Youth American Grand Prix, the prestigious ballet competition. See how six of its participants from around the world train and prepare for what could be the big break of their budding ballet careers. It’s a very difficult, painful, and tiring journey. Some of the young dancers featured in this esteemed documentary have since made their mark in world-renowned ballet companies.
Make sure you see: The excerpts of the six participants’ actual performances in the competition- all of them have captivating stage presence and near-perfect ballet technique.


5. Mary Poppins

A Disney classic in which an enchanted nanny visits a family to help bring them closer to each other (and teach them a lesson or two along the way). The children and Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), sing and skip their way through a magical version of London filled with serenading animals, horse races, and gravity-defying chimney sweeps! Mary and Bert, her optimistic chimney sweep pal, perform some jolly duets in the fantasyland that can’t help but make you smile.
Make sure you see: The chimney sweeps’ electric number ‘Step In Time!’ on top of the dusty roofs of London- full of fast tap and stunts only magic could produce.


4. La La Land

The most recently-made movie on the list (released in 2016), La La Land made performers’ hearts swell from the second it premiered. Wannabe actress Mia (Emma Stone) and amateur jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) find themselves drawn to each other by a chance encounter in sunny Los Angeles. What puts this movie on the best dance movies list though is its dreamy ballroom and Broadway-esque scenes set to a catchy original score, many of them reminiscent of old Hollywood dance numbers.
Make sure you see: The opening scene, which includes a full ensemble dancing on top of cars stuck in traffic! Also- Mia and Sebastian’s sweet and sweeping duet in a twilight-covered park.


3. Step Up

Street hip-hop dancer Tyler (Channing Tatum) gets himself into some trouble in a bad neighborhood, so instead of doing time, he opts to do a community service gig at an elite performing art school. There he meets Nora. She’s the total opposite of him, a dedicated ballet student at the arts school, but despite their differences, a romance blossoms. They collaborate in the studio, and they create a cool, unique mashup of studio and street, showing that their worlds aren’t as far apart as people think. Passion is what unites dancers of every style!
Make sure you see: All the amazing hip-hop choreo, each piece more intense than the last. Also see the studio scene, where Nora and Tyler meet halfway in a ballet-hip-hop duet


2. Center Stage

The ultimate bun-head movie, Center Stage tells the story of a group of classical ballet dancers on the cusp of their professional careers. As they train and hope for a spot with an esteemed ballet company, the friends learn that landing a job means more than having the most talent or “perfect” body. Your heart has to be in it, too!

Make sure you see: The funky finale, featuring main character Jody Sawyer as the lead sporting a spicy red dress dancing in a super fun jazz-ballet performance.


1. Singin’ in the Rain

A staple in the musicals-as-movies arena, Singin’ in the Rain follows a frustrated A-list Hollywood couple as they adjust to the birth of the “talkie” era after making only silent films. They discover a hidden talent in chorus girl Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), whose voice is the sweet sound their movies need. This funny film is stuffed with amazing numbers performed by the legendary Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, who crack us up with their tap and jazz numbers laced with classic slapstick comedy.
Make sure you see: The iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” number, in which a lovestruck Gene Kelly dances along a rainy street, wowing us with his joyful jumps and showing the many fun ways to dance with an umbrella.


Emily Strickland is a professional ballet dancer and writer from Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is currently dancing with Nevada Ballet Theatre in Las Vegas, where she’s had the opportunity to perform ballets like The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake, as well as in a collaborative performance with Cirque du Soleil. Previously she was an artist at Columbia Classical Ballet and a trainee at Richmond Ballet, where she was the featured soloist in Connor Frain’s premiere piece “Inertia”. She has trained with Richmond Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Festival Ballet Providence, Nashville Ballet, and the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, she is a ballet instructor at Avery Ballet.

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