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Dancing is Good for the Soul, the Body, and the Spirit – 15 Spontaneous Dance Scenes from Film and TV

The First Wives Club; dance scenes in film
The First Wives Club. Photo: Paramount Pictures

“There are shortcuts to happiness, and dancing is one of them.”  – Vicky Baum

There are times when we are simply bursting with emotion. The best outlet for that is often to turn on your favorite music and let yourself go crazy. Dancing your heart out can be plain fun or even therapeutic, depending on the song and mood you find yourself in. Burst into dance with these memorable scenes from film and TV!

Related Post: The First Dance – 12 Memorable Romantic Dance Scenes in Film and Television

15 Spontaneous Dance Scenes from Film and TV

(in no particular order)


Trying to resist Gloria Gaynor.
The irresistible power of Gloria Gaynor will get you every time, no matter how hard you try to resist. Photo: Paramount Pictures
Film: In & Out (1997)
Song: I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor

“We have come to the most critical area of masculine behavior: Dancing. Truly manly men do not dance under any circumstances! This will be your ultimate test. At all cost avoid rhythm, grace, and pleasure. Whatever you do, do not dance!”

Kevin Kline’s Howard Brackett is a history teacher in a small town where everyone knows each other. Right before his marriage to a fellow teacher, played marvelously by Joan Cusack, he is outed as gay by a former student. This is news to the entire town including Howard himself.

What follows is a hilarious story of self-discovery. Naturally, such a story involves buying a self-help tape on “Exploring Your Masculinity.” According to this tape, manly men do not dance, which is a hysterically ridiculous statement. The song choice is also brilliant because I think one would be hard-pressed to find someone who will be able to stand still while it is playing.

Unsurprisingly, our hero does not last long and breaks out into a full-on dance. He is powerless to resist the catchy lure of a Gloria Gaynor song.


Having some fun with the police force.
“They call me Cuban Pete. I’m the king of the rumba beat!” Photo: New Line Cinema
 Film: The Mask (1994)
Song: Cuban Pete – Jim Carrey

What do you do when the entire police force has you cornered with no escape route in sight? The Mask, being the mischievous creature he is, decides to engage everyone in a bit of dancing.

While donning The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss is fearless. With his spectacular and never-ending energy, he soon has everyone waving their guns in the air in beat to the music rather than pointing them at him.


Can't stop dancing! Dirty Dancing
I am too cool for school! Photo: Vestron Pictures
Film: Dirty Dancing (1987)
Song: The Surfaris – Wipe Out

As we all know, this film is full of dance scenes. But I have a particular fondness for the scenes where Baby (Jennifer Grey) practices on the way to and from her practice sessions with Johnny (Patrick Swayze). At first, she is focused on the steps, which she keeps getting wrong. Eventually, she starts to feel the music. As her confidence in herself and her abilities grows, she starts to dance for enjoyment, not out of obligation. This makes all the difference.

Related Post: Ten Romantic Dance Scenes in Film


A different kind of "Risky Business".
Home Alone: Grown-up style. TriStar Television, Inc.
Show: The Nanny (1993-1999), Season 2 Episode 16
Song: Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger

This scene takes place when our resident butler is left home alone while the rest of the family goes off on holiday. While everyone is feeling sorry for leaving him behind alone, Niles (Daniel Davis) is having the time of his life. Using his favorite duster as an air guitar and microphone, he does an excellent rendition of the dance from Risky Business. The one made classic by Tom Cruise and consequently imitated and parodied many times over.

As is usually the case, his nemesis happens to walk in on him providing fodder for their favorite pastime of verbal sparring. Arguing and swearing has never been as flirtatious as between these two.


Adventures in Babysitting Getting ready for a date.
“Then he asked me to be his bride, and always be right by his side.” Photo: Touchstone Pictures
Film: Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
Song: Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals

This scene happens at the very start of the film and introduces us to our heroine. There is beauty in its simplicity and how easy it is to relate to it. We have a girl getting ready for a date and everything it entails: music, dancing, and dreams of that perfect kiss at the end of the night. Of course, this illusion is shattered as soon as this date is suddenly canceled at the last minute. Soon she is stuck babysitting the neighbors’ children instead of having the romantic evening she had been imagining. However, the evening turns our to be quite an eventful one, contrary to what we normally perceive babysitting to be.


The Breakfast Club - Dancing like crazy!
Dance therapy in group detention. Photo: Universal Pictures
Film: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Song: We Are Not Alone – Karla DeVito

With an entire day of detention ahead, dancing is definitely a good way to make that time go by faster.

After our lovable misfits had what can only be called a group therapy session, they are ready to let loose. They have bonded and are now comfortable enough with each other to show their real selves.

I believe that the reason why we often do this kind of dancing when no one is watching is because we bare our souls during those moments. There are very few people that most of us would feel comfortable enough around to show such raw emotion to. As soon as people walk in on such a spectacle, we immediately stop in embarrassment. This is often played for comedy, but it is heartbreaking in a way. How is it that we have come to expect to be judged for being at our most sincere?


Mrs Doubtfire setting the dance floor on fire.
The inimitable Robin Williams as an eccentric (female) housekeeper. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Film: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Song: Dude (Looks Like a Lady) – Aerosmith

I have a love-hate relationship with this film. Pierce Brosnan will forever be the charming Remington Steele to me, so it’s hard seeing him play the “bad guy” here. Ultimately, this is a Robin Williams film through and through. He shines in every scene as he always does! Music & dance is a necessity during a cleaning session, as most of us have experienced I’m sure. It makes the act less of a chore and infinitely more pleasurable.

Related Post: Six Reasons Remington Steele is Perfect for Fans of Classic Romantic Comedy


The First Wives Club - You Don't Own Me!
Independence is sweet. Revenge is even sweeter! Photo: Paramount Pictures
Film: The First Wives Club (1996)
Song: You Don’t Own Me – Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn

You don’t own me,
Don’t try to change me in any way,
You don’t own me,
Don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay!

Who says life is over if your husband suddenly leaves you for a younger woman? Our three heroines connect over their divorced status and remind each other of their fearless selves from before they got married. The power of female friendship is strong in this film and their spontaneous group song and dance is a joy to watch and sing along with.


Look Who's Talking - How to get little ones to eat.
Mikey: “Now that’s entertainment!” Photo: TriStar Pictures
Film: Look Who’s Talking (1989)
Song: Town Without Pity – Gene Pitney

This is a gem of a movie that I don’t think enough people have seen. It may not be particularly deep, but it is so much fun! We follow Mikey, voiced to perfection by Bruce Willis, from conception through to his early childhood. This is a voice that cannot be heard by the adults, which makes it all the more amusing.

In this scene, the mother (Kirstie Alley) resorts to a full on dance performance just to get her little one to have some porridge. Getting food into small children can be notoriously difficult work, after all! While she is in full swing, the nanny (John Travolta) walks in on her and joins in the fun. After the initial embarrassment on the mother’s part, they finish off the number in extravagant fashion, much to the approval of little Mikey.


Stepmom - Family fun time!
“Ain’t no mountain high enough, Ain’t no valley low enough, Ain’t no river wide enough, To keep me from getting to you babe!” Photo: Columbia Pictures, Inc.
Film: Stepmom (1998)
Song: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Words aren’t always necessary to make up after a fight with your loved ones. Sometimes all it takes is some music and lip-syncing.

Jackie (Susan Sarandon) gets diagnosed with terminal cancer and decided to make the most of the time she has left with her children all the while trying to come to terms with Isabel (Julia Roberts), her ex-husband’s fiancée, taking over her role of mother when she will no longer be here. This scene is exuberant and bittersweet. If we only listened to others more and argued less, maybe life could be more like this more often?


Anastasia - Once upon a December
“Someone holds me safe and warm. Horses prance through a silver storm. Figures dancing gracefully across my memory.” Photo: Twentieth Century Fox
Film: Anastasia (1997)
Song: Once upon a December – Deana Carter

This is still one of my favorite songs. There is something about nostalgia that always gets to me.

When Anastasia gets a glimpse of the grand old ballroom, memories come flooding back to her. The figures from her memories quite literally jump out of the tall mirrors in full swing. As she dances across the vast floor, she is both achingly alone and surrounded by the blurry figures representing her memories at the same time. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition!


Bandits - Cate Blanchett
Terry: “You’re insane!” Kate: “I’m unhappy! It’s not the same thing.” Photo: MGM
Film: Bandits (2001)
Song: Holding Out For a Hero – Bonnie Tyler

Dancing makes cooking more bearable when the last thing one wants to be is stuck in the kitchen.

Kate (Cate Blanchett) feels stuck in a life that is going nowhere. The fact that her husband doesn’t pay her any attention doesn’t help matters. She is obviously on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The hero she is holding out for comes in the unexpected form of two bank robbers: A hypochondriac played by Billy Bob Thornton and a charismatic charmer played by Bruce Willis who, together, make the perfect man according to Kate. Being kidnapped by this duo is the best thing that could have happened to Kate. She is very eager to jump on board the outlaw train. Her eager cooperation in this kidnapping, naturally, makes the bandits see her as “mentally unbalanced to a spectacular degree.”


Fanfan - Sophie Marceau
I see you, but you don’t see me. Our love will last forever! Photo: Gaumont
Film: Fanfan (1993)
Song: Call of the Stomp – Eric Gemsa (Jazz/ Swing instrumental)

Here, Fanfan turns on the music and dances to her heart’s content. Unbeknownst to her, Alexandre has joined in the fun just on the other side of the mirror. This wall provides a way for them to be together without actually being together.

This is a French film starring Sophie Marceau (Fanfan) and Vincent Perez (Alexandre). As some of the best French films, it’s wonderfully quirky. Alexandre is so afraid to lose Fanfan that he is too scared to take the steps necessary to actually be with her. Nevertheless, he still longs to be close to her, so he moves in next door and installs a one-way mirror between their apartments. It may sound ludicrous and creepy, but the film manages to use this as an effective device to eventually bring our characters together in a very heartfelt manner.


Il bisbetico domato - Adriano Celentano
Pressing grapes with Adriano Celentano. This man can make anything look exciting! Photo: Capital Film
Film: The Taming of the Scoundrel / Il Bisbetico Domato (1980)
Song: Fiori e Fantasia

This is a wonderfully amusing Italian film starring Adriano Celentano (Elia) and Ornella Muti (Lisa). These actors were huge stars at the time and Celentano is a master of physical comedy way up there with actors like Charlie Chaplin and Jim Carrey. The way he moves has a contagious effect on the audience.

In this scene, he has a competition with the latest technological advancement in the pressing of grapes recommended to him by his accountant. Elia, however, would rather keep his staff instead of replacing them with a machine that simply cannot dance as well as him. In fact, he is so old-fashioned that he cycles everywhere and is not a fan of cars (in a very vocal manner). He even decides to replace said accountant with a calculator at the end of this fantastic performance.


My Fair Lady - Happiness
“I could have danced all night. I could have spread my wings and done a thousand things I’d never done before.” Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Film: My Fair Lady (1964) Warner Bros. Pictures
Song: I Could Have Danced All Night – Marni Nixon

I’ve included this one more as an explanation of that fleeting emotion that can only be achieved through dance rather than an actual dance scene. I bet we’ve all had times when we felt so ecstatic that our bodies couldn’t contain such a large amount of happiness. Those times when there is so much energy coursing through our bodies that we cannot sleep let alone stand still. I have been known to play this song on repeat on more than one such occasion. It is just such a true to life song and experience.

On this note, I will leave you to have your own spontaneous dance experience should you wish to.

What are some of your favorite spontaneous dances scenes from Film and TV?

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By on April 14th, 2017

About Yaroslavna Simdyankina

Storytelling in all formats has held Yaroslavna captive since her childhood. She cannot simply watch or read something, but has a tendency to analyse every story and scene in great detail. Human interactions, people's ability to change and improve, and the way the human psyche works has always fascinated her. Her favourite stories are those where characters go through profound changes or are so firm in their beliefs that they affect the world around them through their actions.

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4 thoughts on “Dancing is Good for the Soul, the Body, and the Spirit – 15 Spontaneous Dance Scenes from Film and TV”

  1. I love the idea for this post! I like Cameron’s Diaz bedroom dance scene in her boy undies in Charlie’s Angels as well as Jennifer Garner’s little girl sleepover dance party in 13 Going on 30.

  2. I loved it! All of them! But I have two favorite dances, I’d day.
    I love The Mask (1994). I always laugh with that scene.
    And My fair Lady is my one weakness…

    Thank you 😀


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