Monday, November 9, 2009

80s and 90s Spontaneous Movie Group Dance Scenes Where Everyone Knows Exactly What to Do

Photo: LA Times

All movies require a certain degree of suspended disbelief. We know and understand that these words and images do not constitute real life, nor should they. If we wanted real life, we'd go out and live it. If we want a brief period of escapism, we shell out ten bucks to watch other people lead more exciting lives.

Despite this understanding that movies should not be taken as real life, there are some scenes that make it more difficult than others. In real life, very few of us are trained dancers who have spent grueling hours under the guidance of professional choreographers and stage blockers. In movies, though, we're just supposed to ignore the fact that the cast has put in hours of dance rehearsals (or better yet, have body doubles) and just assume that there lives are just so exciting and carefree that it's impossible to not spontaneously break into well-organized group dancing. It's awfully convenient when someone spontaneously breaks out into dance and their costars know all the complex prechoreographed steps, but we just accept it as movie truth.

This trick was especially prominent in 80s and 90s movies, with directors throwing in a spontaneous eruption of dance whenever things seemed to be getting a little slow. Nothing like a foray into the art of dance to get things moving again. Except, you know, some plot twists and character developments. Honestly, though, that would probably be asking too much from these films. It's almost better to just take their cop-out flashy spontaneous dance distractions for what they are.

Regardless of their plot-thickening merit, these scenes are pure fun. They're almost enough to make us wish our current coworkers would toss aside their desk chairs and assemble into formation for a grandiose musical number. Until that happens, though, you'll have to rely on these clips to hold you over for your spontaneous dance fix:

She's All That

Let's start strong here with the classic 90s teen movie example, She's All That. This movie is not exactly grounded in high school reality, so it's not wonder they were able to pull off this spontaneous eruption of choreographed prom dancing. Depending on your definition of "pulling off", of course. The scheming prom attendees got down to the Rockerfeller Skank by Fatboy Slim, proving that a movie doesn't need a wealth of substance to crank out a spontaneous dance number. Well played, She's All That.

Encino Man

I'm not embarrassed to admit my boyfriend and I watched this entire movie in full this weekend. Okay, I lied, I'm incredibly embarrassed. What I thought was a hilarious caveman comedy is actually possibly the worst movie ever made, though this glaring fact won't stop me from loving it unconditionally. This ending dance scene was indeed the inspiration for this entire post, so I refuse to concede that I wasted 88 minutes of my life engrossed in this glaringly awful piece of 90s cinematic ridiculousness. The entire movie is so hokey and nonsensical, this dance number almost seems like a shot of realism.

Austin Powers

As a parody, Austin Powers was a prime candidate for a group dance number. It was already mocking everything these movies stood for, so why not throw in some groovy swinging moves well-timed to catchy theme music? It was a dance that spurned a thousand imitators, each more annoying than the last, but you must admit the original was pretty entertaining.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

I've never been in a marching band so I can't say for sure, but I imagine it's not the kind of thing you can just orchestrate with a snap of your fingers. Unless you're Ferris Bueller, that is, in which case the world is your parade float. Like I said, though, I'm not expert in this arena, so it's possible my inexperience as a marching band member is throwing off my judgment a bit.

In this now-classic scene, Ferris performs a spur-of-the-moment show-stopping version of "Twist and Shout" atop a parade float at the Von Steuben Day Parade in Chicago. Everyone joins in on the dancing, from his Oktoberfest costume-clad floatmates to scaffolding-bound construction workers. It's classic John Hughes: totally over the top, yet almost believable in the moment.


This one isn't quite a stretch considering the whole movie hinges on a dancing equals social freedom plot line, but the dancing is great nonetheless. You've got to admit, these kids seem incredibly at ease with their moves for people who've never danced a step in their lives. Just saying.

Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club Dance from Brandon McGhee on Vimeo.

I still can't watch this clip without yearning for Molly Ringwald's awesomely 80s dance moves. This scene embodies the movie because it pounds each character's two-dimensional stereotype into our heads with their personality-specific dance moves. The wild one is going crazy, the nerd's nerding out, the weird one is going nuts. We get it, they're all different. I'm not sure if I could have grasped at that conclusion without the help of this handy dance scene.

Teen Wolf

Do the wolf, man. Or is the Wolfman? We may never know for sure. Either way, it's cheesy 80s school dancing at its finest.


I admit, with its 1980 release date it's pretty unlikely many of us children of the 90s grew up with this one, but the scene is just such a classic example of the spontaneous group dance I would be depriving you by leaving it out. At least in this case, most of the group in question is actually made of trained dancers, so it fits in well. Plus, it's just a really catchy song. I'm pretty sure if someone started singing it while I was on the street, I'd bust a move or two also. Probably two.

Reality Bites

This movie was meant to be the defining Generation X film, so it's fair enough that this group doesn't go for the all-out choreography. They're far too cynical and angsty for something that mainstream. No, they're content with their makeshift moves certain to humiliate Ethan Hawke's character. Can you blame him, really? I'm not saying the gas station attendant is there to judge, but if I were him I certainly would be. If nothing else, I'd be judging the hell out of Janeane Garafalo's bangs. What is up with those?

These movies may not be especially reflective of real life, but they're entertaining enough to almost make us believe that a crowd could instinctively just feel the moment was right for breaking into some serious dance moves. Our everyday lives may not contain copious amounts of extemporaneous group choreography, but that just makes it all the more fun to watch.


P said...

I actually LOVE that scene in Reality Bites.

Think I might watch it later.

Cee said...

I am always sad that this doesn't happen in real life. I would love it if everyone burst into a dance.

CTB said...

My life long dream has always been to be involved in one of these dance numbers in my real life! I love this!!!

Maggi said...

"Spontaneous" musical numbers are usually pretty fun in any movie!

Sunshinemeg said...

I wish I could be a part of a dance scene! I loved all of the Austin Power's ones. His moves were so sassy and slick. Ha!! Great post today.

Liya said...

your blog is such a fun trip back to my childhood
deeeeefs following :)

Melanie's Randomness said...

I agree with Cee. I too am sad that this doesn't happen in real life. lol. There's a movie called "Not another Teen Movie" where they parody "She's all that" and one guy says, "Who would have thought a whole high school class are professional dancers." Love the dance scenes. It's just soo funny. My favorite one is the Austin Powers one.

Kelly said...

this totally cracks me up cause I always wished that this would happen in school. the closest thing we ever got to is someone taking at the mic at a high school dance to sing the humpty dance and everyone sang and danced along. it wasn't as spectacular as the

Autumn Twig said...

LOL so true. This was a wonderful post :)

Amy said...

I LOVE reading your posts!! They are the ABSOLUTE BEST and make me smile every time I read them!! This one was so great... and so true. LOL


Jenn said...

the dance scene from 'she's all that' was one of my favorites ever. we thought of doing a choreographed dance at our wedding with our wedding party, but ultimately decided it was too much work. maybe if usher had been dj'ing! :)

Nic said...

Austin Powers makes me horny, baby.

Mrs. M. said...

ok first of all Reality Bites, one of the best films of all time! I love Ethan Hawke and the way he looks as Wino in that film is the freakin dreamiest.
i was actually watching "I Think I Love My Wife" this weekend and the same thing happened. the entire movie was regular and then at the end they just start singing to one another. i was like what the eff is this??? Two hours of seriousness and then you're going to try and act like it's Fidler on the Roof? Talk about distracting.

Lora said...

I always say that I want my life to be like that. Just for one day.

Everyone knows where to go and what to sing and it makes me blissfully happy and wildly entertained.

One day!
Is that too much to ask?

Will said...

We can't forget the classic comments from "Not Another Teen Movie" that addresses the fact that every student in our high school is a trained dancer.

Ice Queen said...

You've struck gold yet again my friend. Twist and shout it out!

Holly said...

I love your blog! I've found that I'm much more forgiving of the random, but somehow perfectly choreographed, dances when they are present in movies from the 90's. Encino Man, for example, has always been very dear to me. I thought it was a high quality film when I was a little girl, but even now that I know better, it's still got a cozy little place in my heart. ♥

Freck said...

Hahaha!! looove it! These scenes rock.

Lauren Elizabeth said...

haha SO FUN!!!
love it! :) :)

Missy said...

LOVE this post! i'm a big fan of Austin Powers!

For all things fashion:

Melissa said...

i wish spontaneous dancing occurred during awkward situations in real life! She's all that is one of my favorite movies, it brings back memories of my late angst ridden teenage years lol

Anonymous said...

I was always wondering why none of my friends and family knew how to do this. I grew up lacking a supportive, spontaneous and thoroughly dance-trained social circle... We'll always have the Macarena though...

~The daily anonymous

Mr. Condescending said...

I LOVED watching encino man as a kid!

Stephanie said...

Love the post!!! I always think it is random when you have people in movies that automatically know all the dance moves. It is kind of hilarious. I love the dance from Austin Powers and The Breakfast Club. They were fabulous!!! :) Hope you have a great day.

Phoenix said...

LOL I love this so much! You definitely need to suspend your disbelief when suddenly EVERYONE knows the exact same moves and dances perfectly to the beat. Ahhh, only in the 90's... or in every musical, ever. And in all Bollywood films :)

Although I have to admit I loved it in Slumdog Millionaire - PERFECT way to end that movie!

Anonymous said...

Another point to consider is where these people come from. I mean, fifty people popping out of the woodworks is a little off, to say the least. Are these the ninja surgeons I've read so much about?

~The daily anonymous

Katie said...

The Breakfest Club dance scene is my favorite!!

Sydnie said...

I absolutely love your blog! I'm proud to be a child of the 90s myself! Thanks for preserving all of the amazing memories we had before all of this "new technology"! :)

Enter my Chickdowntown giveaway now!

Rachel said...

haha I love in Footloose at the end when even though no one got to dance in that town their whole lives, everyone is suddently a professional dancer! I love the glitter! haha

oldschoolpopculture said...

Awesome! I must go watch Teen Wolf now!

Kids Music said...

I like the Austin Powers video. Thanks for sharing.

Linda said...

That scene in Reality Bites is so real to me. I can't count how many times I've done that seriously.
I love the dance scene in Can't Buy Me Love. Too funny!

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel said...

omg fame will always be one of my favorite movies growing up. I loved that movie when i was a kid and the title song to this day remains as one of my favorite songs from back then.

gotta love irene cara in that movie.

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