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Dancing Is Serious Business
Girl: I'm rich and you're poor, but let's dance together!
Guy: Society won't like it.
Girl: (grabbing him dramatically) I don't care!
— parody of this trope from Family Guy

Some media works feature people dancing. This makes a whole lot of sense when the scene is set in a nightclub, a prom, or even a concert. Other times, however, there is an elaborate plot going on upon which the story is concentrating, and there's no time for frivolity because serious business is afoot. And yet dancing has been shoved in there somewhere, even when it feels (or at least should feel) out of place.

Very common in music videos and in films that are about dancing. And naturally, this trope does not apply if the work is a musical.

Naturally a Sub-Trope of Serious Business. May feature an Angry Dance.


Examples:

Anime

Fairy Tales
  • Cinderella's salvation more or less comes from dancing at a ball.

Film
  • In the middle of Footloose, Ren McCormick invades a train-yard just so he can work his dancing Angst out. And impress the girl, apparently.
    • Parodied on Flight of the Conchords with "Bret's Angry Dance." When the band breaks up, the only way to vent his frustrations is by dancing masculinely in a warehouse. Unlike Bacon, Bret McKenzie is a trained dancer, so he did the heavy lifting and heavier dancing himself.
    • Also parodied in Hot Rod, although it's in a forest and the dancing...isn't that great.
  • In Dirty Dancing, much more is riding on Baby learning to dance than Johnny not being able to do a dance exhibition at another resort and thus suffering professional embarrassment.
  • C Me Dance is about a girl whose faith in God is apparently dependent on her ability to dance. When she can't dance due to some rare blood disease, she loses faith. Her father prays that she returns to Christianity and regains the strength to fulfill her dream of dancing. God apparently not only obliges by making her better, He makes her gift of dance so great that people who see her dance apparently have religious epiphanies and convert to Christianity instantly! Satan, upset by her ability to bring people to God that easily, then aims all his evil energy at preventing her from dancing. It should be noted that this film is not a parody or a comedy; they were trying to be serious. Quite clearly, Dancing Is Serious Business.
  • Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to this trope by having everyone treat a professional dancing competition with the same level of seriousness most people reserve for wars, deaths in the family, and epidemics.
  • In Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) basically pins his entire future on winning a dance contest. Justified as Tony is from a poor, slightly abusive family, is stuck in a dead-end job, and is affected by gang violence. He has nothing else to enjoy and pin his hopes on but dancing.
    • Similarly, Flash Dance has Alex (played by Jennifer Beals) pining her own entire future on her audition for the Pittsburgh Conservatory.
  • The movie Breakin' featured the classic "pinning of all hopes and dreams on a dance routine," but its strangely-titled sequel Electric Boogaloo ratcheted up the crazy by not only using breakdancing as a means to save the perpetually-imperiled youth center, but also as a form of combat. No, not like a Dance Battler, but rather two teams of enemies facing off, breakdancing, and then deciding —as a group— who won the battle. What, do you think we're kidding?
  • There was a rash of these in the '00s: Take the Lead and the Disney Channel movie Gotta Kick It Up! were Save Our Students stories; You Got Served, the Step Up movies and Save the Last Dance all involved gang violence wherein somebody got shot; Stomp the Yard (which also started with a murder) and How She Move had pulling-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-and-the-magic-of-dance plots. In 2009 The Wayans brothers made a parody movie for MTV called Dance Flick.
  • Billy Elliot qualifies as this at the point where the striking miner father almost becomes a scab for the money to send Billy to ballet school so the kid can have a better chance at life.
  • They Shoot Horses Dont They? is a Deconstruction based on actual exploitative dance contests during the Great Depression.
  • The documentary Pina is about the late choreographer, Pina Bausch, and her dancers speak about her in awe as an artist the way a sculptor would speak about Michelangelo as they perform the dances she developed.
  • Another Cinderella Story. It's a modern version of Cinderella (see above), so it actually makes sense to be about a dancer.
  • In 1940 movie The Mark of Zorro the elaborate and energetic dance of Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power) and Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell) brings the two lovebirds closer together.
    • As does the (far too sensuous for the time it is set in) dance of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones in The Mask of Zorro.
  • In Never Say Never Again, James Bond (Sean Connery) turns Domino (Kim Basinger) away from Emilio Largo in an elaborate tango. The right to which he won by defeating Largo in a game.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, with the fate of an entire planet at stake, Quill challenges Ronan the Accusser to a dance-off. It is a distraction. Ronan is extremely confused and temporarily stops his attempt to destroy the planet while he tries to figure out what is going on. This give Rocket time to fix his BFG and destroy the source of Ronan's power.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • What Bunheads is all about
  • The Doctor Who episode named, appropriately, The Doctor Dances. In this case, the dancing subplot seems to be a veiled reference to sexuality.

Music
  • Men Without Hats's "Safety Dance":
    We can dance if we want to
    We can leave your friends behind
    'Cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance
    Well, they're no friends of mine

Music Videos
  • Michael Jackson was the king of this trope. You might think a Zombie Apocalypse horror movie might be the wrong time to suddenly break out into dance, but somehow he made it work in "Thriller". In "Beat It," he actually puts a stop to a gang-war through the power of dance. Think that's enough? The film for "Smooth Criminal" boasted fantastic cinematography that accentuated the dancing to the max.
  • The video for Katy Perry's "Hot & Cold" features her as a bride at the altar, where the groom hesitates before saying "I do." She, and some other spurned brides, arm themselves with baseball bats, corner him... and then break into dance.
  • Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield." Pat and the other taxi-dancers force the sleazy pimp-like Guido who runs the dance hall to back off through the power of dance. Or something...
  • The video for Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder On The Dance-Floor'' involves a dancing contest with an unscrupulously competitive contestant.
  • The video for "Helena" by My Chemical Romance begins with mourners filling a church for a funeral and then dancing around the coffin. At the bridge, they all bow their heads in prayer and the corpse gets up and does a ballet dance through the center aisle.
  • The video for "Dark Blue" by Jacks Mannequin features a dance marathon. It lasts over 47 days before couple 55 loses. And then they jump off the pier.

Professional Wrestling
  • CHIKARA. Dance-offs between wrestlers could break out in the middle of matches, often started by the Osirian Portal. Sometimes it wasn't even to see who was better, it was just for fun.
  • ECW had a lot of dancing as well. The 1998 feud between the team of The Blue Meanie/Super Nova vs. the FBI (Tracy Smothers, Little Guido Maritato and "The Big Don" Tommy Rich) was centered around it. A typical match between the two teams would start like this: Smothers would "dance" poorly and get booed. Meanie would dance and get cheered. Repeat until the FBI attacks.
  • At CZW Last Team Standing 2006 the crowd demanded to see a dance of between Claudio Castagnoli and Human Tornado when Castagnoli and Chris Hero took on Tornado and Ruckus.

Radio
  • Spokane area radio personalities C. Foster Kane and Jim Arnold (the "Radio Men") often reduce summaries of upcoming movies to the conflict being resolved via a "secret underground dance competition".

Theater
  • Pretty much every musical that isn't a comedy is made of this trope.
    • West Side Story is a notable example. The gang-rumble at the center of the show is either a well-choreographed but very stylized knife fight that involves dancing, or else a well-choreographed but very stylized dance-off that involves knives.

Tabletop RPG
  • Forgotten Realms has the spelldancers, who use dance-based magic rituals. In the 2nd Edition AD&D version, they are variant wizards unable to use Invocation/Evocation or Necromancy spells, but who are not bound by the Vancian rules that control all other magic in D&D. (This means such characters aren't much use in a dungeon crawl, but otherwise tend to be overpowered). In 3rd Edition, any spellcaster (arcane or divine) can become one, and they only use the dance to amplify the spells they can cast normally.
  • Warhammer Fantasy battles have Woodelf Wardancers.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has Eldar Harlequins that use acrobatic dances amplified by mystical technology. They use this during wars as well.

Video Games
  • Ghost Trick:
    • When trouble strikes (such as a prisonwide blackout), prison guard Bailey is compelled to do the Panic Dance as passed down in his family for generations. Why? Because someone has to.
    • Inspector Cabanela also has a fondness for dancing everywhere, including up and down stairs. One of the officers is shown in the credits trying to copy that dance, in an attempt to get his power.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and its American counterpart Elite Beat Agents. In EBA, only dancing can cure a sick athelete and stop an alien invasion.
  • Space Channel 5, where the entire solar system is powered by dance.
  • In Brain Dead 13, Lance has to do this to "stay alive" while dodging a hail of bullets that Trigger Happy Fritz shoots at both our hero and Neurosis. And it all takes place entirely in the darkness, where the only tiny pillars of light are used as a disco dance floor.

Web Original

Western Animation

Real Life
  • Many cultures' ritual dances were this because they were, well, ritual dances. To make a mistake was to show disrespect, incur the wrath of The Powers That Be, etc.
    • This is why, for example, novice hula dancers were secluded until they learned the moves correctly and could perform the ritual dances perfectly.
    • In a modern version, the New Zealand national rugby team performs a Maori haka dance before each of their games. Don't tell them that they look silly.
      • Also, because it looks as intimidating as hell.
      • The Fiji and Samoan teams also have their own, based on their respective tribal dances: the Cibi and the Siva Tau respectively. See this video for a comparison of the three.
  • Male animals (such as certain birds) that use a mating dance to woo a female. She's judging the way he dances; if he does it right, she will allow him to mate with her. But if she doesn't like what she sees (for whatever reason), she will judge him as unsuitable.
  • The Wagah border ceremony on the India/Pakistan border is a daily military practice which involves dance-like aggressive walks from both sides, almost like a dance battle. It was so aggressive that in 2010 Major General Yaqub Ali Khan of the Pakistan Rangers decided that the aggressive aspect of the ceremonial theatrics should be toned down. It was described by Michael Palin as "carefully choreographed contempt."


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