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Dance In Films: Why We Need It And Why I Love It

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at West Chester chapter.

As someone who grew up dancing, I’ve always had a sweet spot for the art. Now, although I don’t actively dance anymore, I can’t help but become intrigued when dance is incorporated into anything. My newest obsession has been dancing in films. More specifically, films that aren’t marketed as musicals, but decide to include dancing.

What recently got me thinking even more about dance in films was when I saw the new Barbie movie in theaters. For those who may not know what I’m getting at, there’s a very early (and iconic) scene in the movie where all the Barbies break into a perfectly choreographed dance to Dua Lipa’s song “Dance the Night Away.” The scene is entertaining, unexpected, and beautifully choreographed, but it also expands on themes later introduced such as self-esteem, and perfection. This made me realize that these dance scenes aren’t just used to add in some choreography or catch the audience by surprise, but rather work to elevate a film – more or less to say what can’t be acted out in words.

Here are some of the movies where dance elevates a film’s storyline from the average structure to something unique:

13 Gong on 30, “Thriller”

When I think of an original film that captured the whole “let’s add random a dance sequence in here”, I immediately think of this movie. Starring Jenifer Garner, 13 Going on 30 captures what it would be like if your 13-year-old self were to time travel into your 30-year-old self’s life. About halfway through the movie, Garner’s character decides to throw on the song “Thriller” by MK to change the uptight mood of her work event. 

Of course, you can’t deny how entertaining this scene is, however, it also reveals the personal development of the main character. At the beginning of the movie, Garner’s character so desperately wants to fit in with the popular crowd. She alters her look and pretends to be someone she’s not, whereas, in this dance sequence, she doesn’t think twice about how she may be perceived. Although it’s covered by catchy music and choreography, you can’t help but notice a representation of growth.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “Come on Eileen”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the most well-known coming-of-age films, as it captures grief, trauma, and self-discovery among teenagers. This movie is an excellent example of using dancing to capture something that can’t be conveyed just through a script. 

Through the first quarter of the movie the main character, Charlie attempts to make some friends. There is a heartwarming moment where he sees two characters fiercely dance, to the song “Come On Eileen”. Taking a chance he decides to join in, and from that moment on, a deep friendship between him and the two characters is born.

This scene conveys Charlie’s vulnerable side as he pushes himself to do something out of the ordinary, as seen prior he was closed off. The scene also shows how something as simple as dancing goofy can bring individuals together.

The Umbrella Academy, “Footloose”

Now if you want to talk about a dance number that will catch you off guard then we need to talk about this scene in The Umbrella Academy.  For those who are familiar with the show, you probably wouldn’t categorize it as a “break out into dance” kind of show. So when I sat down to watch season three, let’s just say the last thing I was expecting was to get a dance sequence to the song “Footloose”.

Immediately I put my phone down and was locked in, and although I was initially confused as to what was going on, the scene continued to replay in my mind even after it ended. The show took a chance by adding an unconventional scene (aka the dance number) which ultimately added to the plot. Maybe I’m biased but I think the dance worked in the show’s favor.

Dancing in films is by no means a new concept, yet it’s hard to deny that these scenes add so much to films. Sometimes movement captures feeling more than words can, and there is something very special about that. Like the examples above, none of these movies are advertised as containing dance numbers, which makes the scenes themselves even more electric, exciting, and surprising.

Lena Zadroga

West Chester '26

Hey, my name is Lena Zadroga. I'm a sophomore at West Chester, and currently studying English, with a minor with professional and technical writing. I've always had a love for reading and writing, which is why I wanted to join the incredible HER campus writing team. Little fun fact about me is that I have an complete obsession with sharks!