A friend of mine, for her birthday this year, doesn’t want presents, but she would like us to give to a charity (she’s not fussy, knowing that her friends would pretty much only support charities she does herself) and dance. Now, I’d love to do both of those things, but I’m remarkably poor, and I have serious joint pain, not helped by how erratic our weather has been lately. But what I can do, I told her, was write about dancing in movies. And she was fine with that.
Specifically, though, I’d like to talk about dancing in not-musicals. My initial idea for an article image, in fact, had been from The Breakfast Club. Those kids are dancing because they are teenagers (okay, stoned teenagers, as I remember the scene), so they dance when there’s music. And that’s the kind of thing I’m thinking about. I feel as though there aren’t enough movies, and TV shows, where characters dance just because they feel like dancing. The closest you tend to get is Ye Olde Lip-Synching Into A Hairbrush, a thing I literally never did as a teenager. Even most of the time, when characters attend dances, they don’t dance—think Sixteen Candles and all those characters hugging the wall while extras dance.
Before my knees went out, I loved to dance. Some of the happiest memories of my life are on dance floors of one sort or another—the camp dance at the music camp I attended for six years. Ring Con of fabled memory. The early years of Chibi Chibi Con, under the Fabulous DJ MOG. A concert or two, though I haven’t been to many of those in my life. And, yes, around my mom’s house when I was a teenager and no one else was home. I’m not the most coordinated person in the world, and I’ve never been hugely athletic, but dancing was one of the activities I loved, even after my early childhood ballet lessons were done.
And I don’t know; maybe that’s my childhood as a music student talking. About the only movie I can think of where large groups of teenage characters dance for the sheer joy of dancing, because they hear music and want to dance to it, where it doesn’t seem in any way out of place, is Fame, and most of those kids are either music or dance students themselves. Footloose involves a town where it’s possible to make kids not dance, presumably by also forbidding the sale of any hairbrush that can be used as a pretend microphone.
Sure, there can be a self-consciousness factor; our article image today comes from a Trollhunters episode where Blinky (Kelsey Grammer) passes on to Jim (still Anton Yelchin) the “wisdom” he’d come across in a “human telephone booth” in the ’70s: “Dance like nobody’s watching.” Which Jim, let’s be real, is still bad at. But like I said, I’m thinking of the dancing alone. At bare minimum bopping along to your music while you’re doing the laundry or whatever. Dance is not about performance; dance is about how you want to move. I guess few people in movies want to move that way?
Among the people who I feel most likely to read this article are a dozen or two with whom I’ve danced, some time in the past. I wonder how many movie characters would as middle-aged adults be able to remember a dozen or two people with whom they’d danced, or a dozen or two times when they danced alone. Or not even a specific time when they danced but a sort of melange of dancing memories. Sure, we all remember Tom Cruise in Risky Business, whether we’ve seen the movie or not (I have not), but should it have been such an unusual scene as all that? Like who hasn’t danced around their empty house in their underwear?