Cut a rug, bust a gut

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then those responsiblefor the genre of the dance movie should be gushing with pride. 

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then those responsible for the genre of the dance movie should be gushing with pride.

After all, this weekend will see the theatrical release of Dance Flick, the latest in a cinematic tradition of recent comedy spoofs like the successful Scary Movie series, Superhero Movie and Date Movie. It seems in popular culture, you aren’t a genre until you’ve been spoofed.

But while Dance Flick borrows its punchlines from such recent hits as Step Up, Save the Last Dance and High School Musical, the most successful dance films in Hollywood hit the screen decades earlier when John Travolta defined the genre by stretching himself into a pair of white polyester slacks for 1977’s Saturday Night Fever.

Not only did that classic film receive its own spoof treatment (Airplane!) but it still reigns at the top of the dance genre having grossed over $94 million US since its release. Other hits like Flashdance, Footloose and Dirty Dancing successfully followed and now define many of the films we see today.

“Dancing movies are good because they have a formula,” once stated Step Up star Channing Tatum. And he’s correct. Unlike many musicals, dance films rely on choreography to progress the plot of a story.

While movies like Hairspray include both choreography and song, the dance genre defines conflict of character through the art; the protagonist must advance through dance.

But why are movie audiences so attracted to dance flicks in the first place? The answer may be more intuitive than you think. According to a recent article in Scientific American; our brains are stimulated by viewing coordinated movements.

In fact, biologically-speaking, dance films share a great deal in common with action movies like Fast & Furious and Star Trek. See, not unlike the rush we get from watching high-speed car chases or a bar brawl featuring James T. Kirk, anecdotal evidence shows that “if you’re watching someone dance, your brain’s movement areas activate” as if you were participating yourself.

Essentially, you get the euphoric sensation without the muscle-strain. So quite literally, we are living vicariously through dance movies. Now, doesn’t that make you want to Step Up to the box office and buy a ticket?

Dance film rentals

• Step Up
• Dirty Dancing
• Save the Last Dance
• Strictly Ballroom
• Flashdance
• Stomp the Yard
• Footloose
• Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun

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