I can’t really dance all that well, but I still like to do it. When I’m among friends, in a dark room, and enveloped in a noisy crowd, there’s nothing that quite matches the feeling I get moving along with everybody else to a solid beat. This is especially on the rare chance that they play my favorite song.
Dance scenes occasionally get their due in movies, and a good sequence makes me want to jump through the screen and join in, even though I would probably ruin it. Here are three cool scenes that make me want to dance more.
The Madison from Band Of Outsiders
This is a classic scene helmed by French New Wave director, Jean-Luc Godard. It’s interesting that this scene takes place inside a busy café instead of a dance hall or club. It highlights the spontaneity, nonchalance, and charm of youth. And, of course, there’s that narration, given the full spotlight to describe the characters’ thoughts as the music cuts away abruptly while they continue to dance.
I love the music, but it’s a little awkward that the characters lose the beat. Clearly the music was dubbed in afterwards, so maybe they were improvising when it was filmed. Nevertheless, this was like where hipster cool must have been born.
The contest from Pulp Fiction
In the ’90s, you didn’t get much cooler than Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino was influenced early on by Godard (his film company is called A Band Apart), so this scene likely has roots in Band Of Outsiders. When I first watched it, I thought Vincent Vega’s dancing was the stupidest thing ever, but after a short while it grew on me.
For one, he’s so damn aloof through the whole thing, like this silly dance contest is beneath him. He’s just doing this to entertain his boss’s girl, but you know he’s got some killer moves locked away upstairs somewhere. He’s just not gonna break them out here, tonight, for these people. Instead, he’s doing a little boogie and letting Mia Wallace lead the way to the trophy. Everybody goes home happy.
“The Rich Man’s Frug” from Sweet Charity
And to top it off, let’s get a lot more intentional. From legendary choreographer Bob Fosse comes this incredibly cool three-part number from the Shirley McLain musical Sweet Charity. It starts off with a movement called the “Aloof”—so I’m starting to see a theme of what, to me, is cool here. The dancing through most of the beginning is appropriately understated, like Vega’s style in Pulp Fiction, but here the dancers occasionally break out into wilder gestures. With the “Heavyweight”, the dancing gets a bit more grandiose, and by the end of the the “Big Finish” they’re all cutting loose and doing their own thing (but note the guy in the middle, smoking and remaining completely aloof). The whole thing is super-tightly performed and the result is a giant spectacle.
Beyond just the dancing, this scene is packed with so much style, it’s ridiculous. I mean check those ruffly shirts!
“The Rich Man’s Frug” is part of a musical where all the moves are choreographed, but generally the sequences that I like the most are the ones in dramatic films that feel a bit more natural and spontaneous. Either way, a cool dance scene is a joy to watch.