7 Dance Films (with Legit Dancing) You Need to See

Dance flicks like Save the Last Dance and Step Up may be big on star power (hello, young Channing Tatum), but they’re thin on what really matters: legitimate, inspiring dancing. These seven films are the real deal.

Billy Elliot Universal Studios; 111 minutes Before it was a smash-hit Broadway musical, the story of a young British boy who stumbles upon ballet and sticks with it—against his family’s wishes—danced its way into our movie-loving hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

Singin’ in the Rain Warner Home Video; 103 minutes Eponymous rain-dance scene aside, this film shows some amazing tap-dancing chops—and not just from Gene Kelly. Sidekick Donald O’Connor is the explosive yin to Kelly’s smooth yang.

 

 

 

 

Center Stage Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 115 minutes C’mon, you knew this one was coming. It’s easy to forgive the predictable plot and cheesy lines when Cooper Nielson—er, Ethan Stiefel—is manège-ing away in front of your very eyes.

 

 

 

 

The Red Shoes Image Entertainment; 134 minutes Robert Helpmann’s choreography for the movie’s title ballet is appropriately macabre and thrilling, but the real reason to watch is Ballets Russes star Léonide Massine as the ballet master.

 

 

 

 

The Company Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 112 minutes This film, which was inspired by the Joffrey Ballet and features many of its then-dancers (as well as Neve Campbell), has no real, linear plot—but plenty of ballet. Look for Lar Lubovitch’s dreamy contemporary pas de deux.

 

 

 

 

Strictly Ballroom Miramax Lionsgate; 94 minutes It’s more of a cult classic than director Baz Luhrmann’s other hits (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), but Strictly Ballroom has the sweetest story: A ballroom prodigy with unusual choreographic ideas falls in love with his partner, a clumsy novice.

 

 

 

 

White Nights Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 136 minutes With the hoofing skills of Gregory Hines and the ballet pyrotechnics of Baryshnikov (he does 11 consecutive pirouettes in one scene), who even notices the Cold War–era plot?

 

 

Teachers Trending
Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

Carole Alexis has been enduring the life-altering after-effects of COVID-19 since April 2020. For months on end, the Ballet des Amériques director struggled with fevers, tingling, dizziness and fatigue. Strange bruising showed up on her skin, along with the return of her (long dormant) asthma, plus word loss and stuttering.

"For three days I would experience relief from the fever—then, boom—it would come back worse than before," Alexis says. "I would go into a room and not know why I was there." Despite the remission of some symptoms, the fatigue and other debilitating side effects have endured to this day. Alexis is part of a tens-of-thousands-member club nobody wants to be part of—she is a COVID-19 long-hauler.

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Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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