Arthur Murray Dayton Dance Center
June 27, 2016

As a dance professional, I am often asked, “Do you like to watch dancing shows or movies?” “Uh, yes!” is always my resounding answer. You might be like me, and you have seen every movie that has even the shortest dance scene in it. Or maybe you are unaware of the plethora of great dance movies that are out there. In this article, I will describe some of the best. This is by no means an extensive list, but it might pique your curiosity to seek out others!

The Best Dance Movies, and Why We Love Them!

Written by Kristen Perpich

Swing Kids

This is a story of Peter and Thomas, two young men whose rebellion against the conformity of Nazi Germany took the form of a love of American swing music, British fashion, and Harlem slang. This movie combines a little dance with a little history, and of course, a few plot twists to keep us all on our toes (not unlike a swing dance).

Shall We Dance

John Clark (no, not John Clark the traveling consultant) is a middle aged Chicago estate lawyer. He loves his family, but their combined busy schedules after two decades of marriage have left him feeling unfulfilled. While taking the train home every night, he notices Miss Mitzi’s Dance Studio, which specializes in ballroom. He signs up for beginner dance lessons, and as time progresses, John gets caught up in the lives of those at Miss Mitzi’s.

Shall We Dance is a feel-good movie that reminds us life is not only work and the everyday mundane, but about finding what makes us happy.


Saturday Night Fever

Nineteen-year-old Brooklyn native Tony Manero has a rocky home life. He fights constantly with his father, and has to live up to his family’s idealistic view of his older brother. His refuge is the local disco club, where he spies Stephanie Mangano. He and Stephanie team up to train for the club’s dance competition, and soon Tony starts to feel like the king of the club.

This movie is the reason that Bob Long, Arthur Murray Chairman of the Dance Board, and many others started teaching. Thank you John Travolta!


Center Stage

Who doesn’t enjoy a good love triangle? Add to that a story of a comeback kid, ballet dancing, and a great soundtrack… You’ve got a hit. Center Stage takes a peak into the challenging field of ballet dancing. The final dance is worth the price of admission:



When Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) moves to the small town of Bomont, Utah, he is shocked to find out that dancing and rock music have been banned. As this city boy acclimates to life in a farm town, he and his new friends decide to throw a high school prom, complete with music and dancing. He has to go up against the town council, including his new love interest, Ariel’s, father.

This movie is a dance classic that reminds us to live a little.


Cuban Fury

Former teen salsa champion Bruce Garrett is now an engineer. Bruce gave up dancing after he was brutally bullied by older boys. When he finds out that his new boss, Julia, is passionate about salsa dancing, he decides that the only way he can win her over is by re-mastering the art of dance. Bruce is able to recapture his lost “corazón” (heart), not only for the dance but for his life.


Take the Lead

Based on a true story, the movie tells of the struggle of a dance teacher, Pierre Dulain (Antonio Banderas), to give a group of problem kids a second chance by exploring their dance skills. Everyone is skeptical, especially the kids. After a few uneventful sessions, Pierre finally catches the students’ attention with a tango demonstration. The group eventually competes in a dance contest, as happens in a lot of these dance movies!


Dirty Dancing

This timeless summer love story is a classic. I grew up watching this movie over and over and over (ask my parents).

There is something about it that just makes it absolutely perfect. The characters, the chemistry between Swayze and Grey, the movie’s direction, the INCREDIBLE dancing, the warm summery atmosphere; everything about Dirty Dancing is on par.

The movie includes one of the best dance sequences cinema has ever given us, and a phrase heard round the world, “nobody puts Baby in a corner”.

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