Top 5 Dance Scenes: A Different Take!

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There are three of us writing for Frock Flicks, and we’ve all got our own preferences and takes on things. Sarah shared her top 5 dance scenes with us, and Trystan shared her top 5 masquerade scenes, so I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring with my own personal favorites — the scenes from historical costume movies that make me want to get up and dance too!

In no particular order:

 

Christian Bale & Robert Sean Leonard Make Me Want to Jump Up in Swing Kids (1993)

If you’ve never had the joy of swing dancing (well), then hopefully this clip will give you just a taste of the ridiculous high this kind of dancing can give! This is a great dance scene in a movie FILLED with great dance scenes.Usually paired boy/girl,  its is only improved by the fact that two hot guys with great chemistry are dancing side by side. The rest of the movie may be shlock, but the dancing!

 

The Captain & Maria Define Sexual Tension in The Sound of Music (1965)

Captain von Trapp and Maria — your first thought may be “cheese!” Mine is “hoooooooot.” And the couple is no hotter than the scene where both finally let their attraction seep out subconsciously while they dance a traditional Austrian folk dance.

Okay, so also I used to perform English Country Dance, and this kind of dance is totally fun to do.

 

All the Bustle-y Goodness in The Age of Innocence (1993)

Okay, so the dancing is well done, but what always captures my mind when I watch this scene from one of the best bustle movies EVAH is all the gorgeous shots and angles you get to see of these faaaaabulous late 1870s gowns. Ruffles and petticoats, oh my! (See also this cool behind-the-scenes footage of them filming this scene!)

 

Huge Hoops and a Damn Good Polka in The King and I (1956)

Second only to a good, fast swing dance with a strong lead is a good, fast polka. Polka-ing is FUN. You get to whirl around the dance floor like a mad demon. It’s only improved when you’re wearing a ha-uuuuuge hoop and dancing with a hot guy you’re not supposed to like!

 

A Proper Minuet in A Little Chaos (2015)

So we dinged A Little Chaos for a lot of things, but one thing to praise is the fact that in the final scene, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, and company do a proper minuet. If you ask someone who knows historical dance about any number of dances done in historical costume movies, they’ll tell you it’s wrong — wrong for the era, or rechoreographed for what the filmmakers thought would work on camera. I’ve done a minuet, but I’m no expert, so please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but compared to something like the insane hokey-pokey done at the end of Ridicule (jump to 1:00 if you want to see the horror), A Little Chaos‘s good-to-my-not-very-educated-eye minuet made me happy!

If you just want to see the dancing, jump ahead to 2:30:

 

Which dance scenes in frock flicks make your heart sing?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

43 Responses

  1. MoHub

    The King and I, far and away!

    Also, even though his accent is appalling, Dick van Dyke’s softshoe with the cartoon penguins in Mary Poppins is a hoot!

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    King & I, Sound of Music. Also there’s a waltz in the 1980s Nicholas & Alexandra that’s nice. Banter and waltzing between Nicky & Alix.

    Reply
  3. bshaurette

    That scene from ‘Age of Innocence’ reminds me of many, many Victorian balls attended in Pasadena over the years. There was usually a lot of merry chaos, and lots of different costume styles, but every once in a while everything would come together – usually for a waltz – and you’d have these perfect moments of skirts swirling around in sync and it was just magical.

    The pavanne scene from ‘Orlando’ is in my top five – I love the costumes, the lighting, the ice skaters swishing around the dancers in the center, and the drama, oh the drama. And Tilda Swinton in big lace ruff.

    Reply
  4. Anon

    Okay, so I know this blog hates P&P05, but the dance scene between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy where all the other dancers melted away and there was only the two of them left has to be my favourite.

    Reply
    • Kendra

      There are actually things I do like about that movie! Sadly they’ve been blocked out by too many annoying commenters. I’ll have to rewatch that scene!

      Reply
    • LadySlippers

      I know I’m in the minority but I adore P&P05.

      😍

      The dance was sublime.

      Reply
    • Charity

      Yes.

      The director pulls the same trick again in Anna Karenina with Anna and Vronsky. It’s also effective there.

      Reply
  5. LadySlippers

    squee

    “The Return of Spring” by Bouguereau is at my local art museum (the Joslyn Musuem in Omaha)!!! Media does not do this painting justice — it’s so playful in real life. Plus, because it shows a woman enjoying sexual attentions, its had chairs thrown through it so it’s always protected by plexiglass. But it’s absolutely delightful and delicious.

    Yay! That totally made my day! 💖

    I’ll have to check out the movies you suggested too. “A Little Chaos” has been on my to-watch list for awhile now… but I’m not a fan of Daniel Day Lewis which is why I missed a lot of his movies.

    Reply
    • Terry

      Oh, thank you. I’m not a DDL fan, either, and that makes me a pariah in some circles.

      Reply
    • Kendra

      You know, I have only enjoyed DDL in A Room With a View and Last of the Mohicans. Otherwise he usually annoys me!

      Reply
    • LadySlippers

      DDL always feels heavy in everything he portrays. In my opinion, good actors and good actresses can change their energy, their mood, and their characterisations with each new person they embody. DDL is always heavy and intense — a perpetual Mr Rochester and not in a good way. I tend to steer clear of his stuff because of it.

      Reply
  6. Orian Hutton

    The minuet in ‘Maria Antoinette’ is, I believe, closer to the real thing. Doesn’t mean, of course, that the dance in ‘A Little Chaos’ isn’t lovely to watch.

    Reply
  7. Lynelle

    Though I’ve never watched the full movie, I always enjoy watching the waltz from The Merry Widow. Something about the contrasts of light and dark and the sheer number of people gets me every time. But The King and I polka is an all time favorite! It just looks like so much fun! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBIit6WC7r4

    Reply
    • MoHub

      Coincidentally, my light opera group will be doing The Merry Widow in late February/early March. I, unfortunately, will not be dancing as I’m a cane hobbler, so I will probably be consigned to sitting on a nice pouffe from which I can watch the others waltz.

      Reply
  8. ladyaquanine73551

    Oh! You MUST do some articles on movies like “The King and I” and “My Fair Lady!” Those would be excellent costume fodder to work with, whether it’s good or bad. You can explain why elbow-length gloves were inaccurate for Anna to wear with her ballgown, or puzzle over why almost everyone, including the Siamese ladies, are wearing 50s conical bras and corsets. Or better yet, point out why most of “The King and I” is a fantasy, compared to what really happened in Siam in the 1860s.

    Plus, I’d love to hear your take on Henry Higgins as a character, as well as Eliza Dolittle’s wardrobe. That would be so much fun, hearing of the Edwardian fashions in that movie. I’m amazed you ladies haven’t written about those 2 movies sooner!

    Reply
      • Sarah Lorraine

        We tried to record a My Fair Lady podcast, what, last year? I can’t remember why we ultimately, didn’t… I think we got all pissed off about the sexism and then couldn’t focus on the costumes enough, so we dropped it.

        Reply
        • ladyaquanine73551

          You can focus on each issue separately. The costumes should come first, because those are beautifully done and well-researched, as well as duplicated many times by fans ;). (Heck, they even made Barbie and Ken dolls of the two stars!) You could explore the visual and emotional dynamic of Eliza’s character evolution from a lowly flower girl to an empowered lady.

          It’s true that Henry Higgins is a chauvinist, and yet it’s fun watching Eliza eventually match him in wits, becoming the empowered woman he never expected to create. It’s also fun seeing how his mother interacts with him. You could include a GIF of Mrs. Higgins saying “Henry, what a disagreeable surprise!” at Ascot, hehe.

          A good compare and contrast would include how the movie was portrayed differently from the play.

          Reply
          • MoHub

            The play is actually a tragedy. Higgins has ruined Eliza for life in any class.He’s pretty much through with her once he wins his bet with Pickering, and she can’t go back to her former life. She marries Freddy, and you just know he’ll run through all their money and cheat on—and likely abandon—her to boot.

            Shaw was livid when his plot was changed to have Liza and Higgins come together in the end.

            Reply
            • ladyaquanine73551

              This is one of the few times I think the movie was better than the book/play. I have only this to say to George Bernard Shaw:

              Sucks to be you, wherever you are.

              Reply
              • MoHub

                The stage musical may have been better than the original play, but the movie sucked. Audrey Hepburn was dreadfully miscast, and she couldn’t even lip-synch convincingly. I and fellow singers laugh our heads off watching her pretend to sing.

                Reply
                • MoHub

                  Also, the plot change was made within 3 years of when the play was first produced and was carried over into the 1930s movie with Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller.

                  Howard, however, was a magnificent Higgins.

                  Reply
                • ladyaquanine73551

                  I’ll agree that Audrey Hepburn couldn’t sing as well as the woman they finally chose, but that doesn’t mean she was terrible at the rest of job. I didn’t notice any bad lip-syncing.

                  My family did, however, note that she was skinny as a rail, and that was something of a problem for Audrey for most of her acting/modeling career. It was said she either had anorexia problems, or was bulimic. Didn’t help that she was an ectomorph.

                  The movie did not suck, or it wouldn’t have won the Oscar for Best Picture at the time (they had better taste in films in those days) and it still wouldn’t be a beloved classic. People still even remember the songs!

                  Reply
  9. Frannie Germeshausen

    Sigh. Dancing in a big hoop is so much fun! But a minuet with Alan Rickman – it’s making me teary-eyed at work. I don’t think I’ll ever get over losing him.

    Reply
  10. picasso Manu

    I would like to suggest the waltz with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale in Le Guépard (well, Il Gattopardo or The Leopard depending where you come from)… Actually the entire bal scene is fantastic!

    Reply
  11. Juile

    What a great way to start the weekend … Prompting me to share one of my favourites – the barefoot interpretative dance performed completely straight-faced by Romy, Michele and Sandy Frink when they finally embrace their true personas in the middle of their disastrous high school reunion. I just love it, especially the cut-away to Janeane Garafoalo’s character’s reaction shot; and the trio’s final pose where Romy makes …. rabbit ears? … and they all gaze soulfully away. Hilarious, so fun to watch. Something to think about ahead of the next school reunion, right? :-) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12ka_ZWRdqA

    Reply
  12. Lynne Connolly

    Any of the big numbers Fred and Ginger danced together. And the clothes! But my favourite is the “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” routine from “Follow the Fleet.” So romantic! So many feathers!

    Reply
    • Trystan L. Bass

      Love Fred & Ginger movies — but I’m pretty sure none of them are historical costume movies as they are set in the time period contemporary to when they were made!

      Reply

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