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

Natasha (Lily James) and Andrei (James Norton) share a dance in Andrew Davies "War and Peace." | Photo: BBC
Natasha (Lily James) and Andrei (James Norton) share a dance in Andrew Davies “War and Peace.” | Photo: BBC

While working through revisiting some of my most favorite period dramas, I’ve been reminded that one of the best assets of period dramas is the wonder known as the first dance. So much can happen in the space of a first dance. It’s not only a blank masterpiece where a director can produce some of the most beautiful moving symphony of pictures (without actually having to say a thing); it’s also an elegant solution to craft old-fashioned romance.

RELATED | The Meet Cute: 10 Memorable First Meetings in Film

Pride and Prejudice (2005) Lizzie (Kiera Knightley) and Darcy's first dance
Photo: Focus Features / Universal Pictures

Productions that benefit the most from this kind of filming are period films though there are some stunning contemporary dance scenes as well. Today, I’d like to look back at some of my personal favorite “first dance” scenes, primarily from the period drama appeal with one or two contemporary scenes thrown in (because they are that sweet and memorable). 

12 Memorable First Dances

(Sorted alphabetically)

#1. Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella Ball Dance (Lily James and Richard Madden). Their first dance.
Photo: Disney

“Believe me, they’re all looking at you.”

Colorful, classy and magical, in every sense of the word, is what this first dance is made of.

RELATED | Cinderella Film Review – A Magical, Romantic Fairy Tale

#2. Emma (2009)

Emma BBC 2009 Dance (Mr. Knightley and Emma's First Dance)
Mr. Knightley (Jonny Lee Miller) and Emma (Romola Garai) dance | Photo: BBC

“Who will you dance with?”

“With you if you will ask me.”

Of all of the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s Emma has seen, I do believe the 2009 BBC miniseries’ includes my favorite dance scene between Emma and Mr. Knightley.

#3. Enchanted

Enchanted Robert and Giselle's (Amy Adams) First Dance
Photo: Disney

The only thing that was a letdown about this scene was Giselle’s dress. I understand the need for costume designers to tame her look after all of the tulle creations she’d worn prior, but still, I think they could have found something with more personality. That being said, the dance (and that music!), the swoons and eye lock was gorgeous.

#4. Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Far from the Madding Crowd - First Dance
Photo: BBC Films / Fox Searchlight

This is an emotional dance to be sure; perhaps the most emotional on this list. It’s an important moment for the characters and the audience which is what makes the quietness of it so captivating.

#5. First Daughter

First Daughter - First Dance
Samantha (Katie Holmes) insists James (Marc Blucas) dance with her | Photo: 20th Century Fox

It may be contemporary cinema, but this Katie Holmes film knows how to create a classy and sweet romantic dance.

#6. The Four Feathers

The Four Feathers (First Dance)
Photo: Paramount

The way this scene was filmed was breathtaking; it’s elegant with its sea of red uniforms forming a square around the couple yet lighthearted in the way Esme and Harry playfully perform their dance of honor.

#7. Mansfield Park (1999)

Mansfield Park - Edmund and Fanny's first dance
Photo: Miramax
Photo: Miramax
Photo: Miramax

Yes, I realize Fanny Price is a little bit tipsy during this scene not to mention the dance being primarily with the cad known as Henry Crawford, but she does spend some of the dance with Edmund, and let me tell you, it’s glorious!

#8. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Pride and Prejudice (2005) Lizzie (Kiera Knightley) and Darcy's (Matthew McFayden) First Dance
Photo: Focus Features / Universal Pictures

Passion fueled, to say the least! I adore this interpretation of Lizzie and Darcy’s first dance! Not only is the acting sensational, the fading away of all the other couples is to be commended on the part of the filmmakers in the editing room.

#9. Return to Cranford

Return to Cranford Dance (Tom Hiddleston)
Photo: BBC

This could perhaps be the least popular or forgotten dance on this list, but I find it simply put, charming. Plus, it helps that I shipped this pairing, and there’s Tom Hiddleston (in the role of a gentleman no less!).

#10. The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music First Dance
Photo: 20th Century Fox

One word for this sweetheart of a dance: classic!

#11. Stardust

Stardust Movie (Claire Danes)
Photo: Paramount

Sweet and charming, this scene is all too short in my opinion. It features Cap. Shakespeare teaching Yvaine how to dance, and though it has no romantic connotation but rather a protective one, her subsequent twirl with the hero, Tristian certainly does!

TIE #12. War and Peace (2007)

War and Peace First Dance
Photo: Dutch Filmworks (DFW)

Full of innocence and charm, this scene is a lovely glimpse at Natasha’s infatuation with Andrei.

TIE #12. War and Peace (2016)

War and Peace (2016) First Dance
Photo: BBC

Where the 2007 adaptation took on more of a whimsical approach (because of Natasha’s character), Andrew Davies went for subtly sensual and dreamy. Everything about this scene is a masterful bit of television perfection.

RELATED | War and Peace Episode 1 Review – A British Adaptation of Tolstoy’s Masterpiece

What “first dance” (or any dance) scenes do you like from cinema or television? Why are they memorable? Comment down below with your thoughts! I’d love to read them.



Like this list? You might also enjoy Nine Underrated Romantic Moments in Period Dramas, and visit our Period Drama Review Archives for reviews on amazing period dramas!

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By on March 16th, 2016

About Rissi JC

Rissi is a self-diagnosed Bookaholic and TV fandom addict. She’s currently an avid blogger and reader who enjoys interacting with readers, and often dreams about finishing her first novel. When not writing or reading, she can be found working as an INSPYs advisory board member or contributing to e-zines. Her scribbles are housed on her blog Finding Wonderland (https://www.rissiwrites.com).

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6 thoughts on “The First Dance – 12 Memorable Romantic Dance Scenes in Film and Television”

  1. Oh goodness I love this!! So many beautiful scenes. Love seeing Cinderella on there (of course) and Emma and Pride and Prejudice! Oh so lovely to see Return to Cranford. 😀

    • *high five* That scene in “Cinderella” is (to me) the epitome of a dance scene well done! And naturally, I’m all for any Austen “first dance” scene – they’re all so pretty. As for “Return to Cranford,” I was glad to include that one because brief though it is, I think the romance between these two is a lovely story and I really like the scene too. 🙂

    • I often think of additional amazing scenes when I write articles like this too, Catherine! Makes me think I need a “part 2!” 😉 Thanks so much for visiting – and for sharing your list! I’m excited to stop by and read your list.


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