Mating Dance

"Dance is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire."

Dancing, an age old form of entertainment between one or more people. Dancing in some form can be found in almost any culture and is about as old as time. It could involve one person, two people, a few people, or a whole group of people. It could for fun, or for exercise, and is commonly shown to be romantic. Why just look at those two, so close to each other. They are really getting into it.

... Wow, they are really getting into it.

This trope is applied whenever a person in a work of fiction is dancing and it comes off as overtly sexual. This is not about two people dancing and it is all nice and romantic, this is a bit more... carnal. It could just be the nature of the dance style. But it could just as easily be a regular dance and the people in question are really into each other. After all, both activities involve two people, physical movement, and a fair amount of panting and sweating.

Unsurprisingly, at least a third of the examples on this page appear to be the quite physical and sexually-laden Tango.

This trope also applies to any song where dancing is used as a symbol, a metaphor, or a euphemism, or a Double Entendre for sex. Not describing sex set to a beat, but they just as might as well have. It also applies to a performer who is thrusting, pumping or grinding his or her pelvis while singing a sex song

Tenuously related to Intercourse with You.


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  • A recent Geico commercial used a couple dancing a tango, with a third guy trying to fit in between them.

    Comic Books 
  • A certain dance scene from ElfQuest, but since the participants are nude to begin with it's probably not so much a metaphor for sex as foreplay.
  • In John Byrne's Next Men, "dancing" was the only term the Next Men knew for actual sex.

    Films — Animation 
  • The "Animal Dance" segment of Cats Don't Dance ends with leads Danny and Sawyer, who have engaged in a one-on-one Dance Off, looking rather winded.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A literal example in the Australian film Walkabout, in which an Aborigine boy, who has saved a white girl from death in the outback, strips off his loincloth, paints himself, and does a courtship dance for her. She rejects him.
  • It doesn't take much imagination to see this trope in Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' dance to "Night and Day" in the 1934 film The Gay Divorcee. Fred even offers Ginger a cigarette afterward.
  • A lot of Bollywood movies have many dance scenes like this. Indian parents complain that the dancers are practically humping each other.
  • The Wedding Planner used this metaphor to great effect.
  • Dirty Dancing was built on this trope. Numerous scenes show numerous people getting hot and sweaty on the dance floor and rubbing crotches together and pushing cleavage into faces and - whew!
  • James Bond (Sean Connery) dancing a tango with Domino (Kim Basinger) in Never Say Never Again. No wonder Largo interrupts the dance before things get too far!
  • The tango scene in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Considering the Romance on the Set that ensued between the respective actors, this one probably carries a lot of Reality Subtext.
  • The tango scenes in True Lies, which was actually an attempt by secret agent Harry Tasker to evade the bad guys despite his flirtatious banter with Juno (because they couldn't shoot him in a room full of people). Harry's partner puts it quite succintly after he's done dancing with her that she's ready to have his kids.
  • The lesbian tango scene in Frida.
  • Tango scenes in general do this well. Here's one from Take the Lead: with Antonio Banderas.
  • Not to mention the tango from Addams Family Values, which ends with all the bottles of champagne in the restaurant spontaneously popping their corks.
  • High School High took this to its extremes, with dancers quite accurately pantomiming intimate maneuvers. Of course, this is to be expected, the movie being an outright parody of such things.
  • The Thomas Crown Affair, version two featuring Pierce Brosnan as Crown and Rene Russo wearing an invisible dress. The scene ends with the line.
    Crown: Do you want to dance, or do you want to dance.
  • Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood employs this as well as parodying of the perception of licentiousness in the black culture. At the party, dancers are revealed in a pan shot starting with fairly normal dancing, then to grinding, then to two people buck naked and just having sex on the dance floor.
  • In Totally Awesome, Gabriel summons Lori in front of the entire dance class mid-routine and they end up grinding in front of everyone. At first, it seems an innocent part of the choreography. until their moans grow obnoxiously loud. Deb, in a fit of jealousy, kicks over the boombox and interrupts the routine.
  • In Walk Hard, Dewey Cox briefly works sweeping the floors in a club where black people "come here to dance erotically" in a parody of Idlewild.
  • Elena and Alejandro at the Don's ball in The Mask of Zorro.
    • Don Diego's dance with Lolita in The Mark of Zorro (1940) is a more restrained, formal example, kind of a danced proposal of marriage. Tyrone Power's skin-tight pants however provide a hint of what to expect in the wedding night...
  • Frantic. The protagonists go to a nightclub to contact the Arab intelligence agents who are holding Walker's wife. While they're waiting Emmanuelle Singer's character insists on dancing with Walker; as the latter is Happily Married he gets rather uncomfortable with how she's dancing so close to him while wearing a tight red dress.
  • The Lover. The Girl dancing the foxtrot with her younger brother. At the same time her older brother is openly making out with his partner during their dance.
  • Death Proof. The lapdance Butterfly gives Stuntman Mike while lip-syncing to "Down in Mexico" by The Coasters. Afterwards Butterfly and Jungle Julia joke that thanks to the dance Pam (who's taking a ride home with Mike) will end up getting laid because of it. Unfortunately Stuntman Mike gets his kicks in other ways.
  • Willow's naked dance in The Wicker Man. The man she's dancing for is in the next room and can't see her, but that's hardly necessary to get his attention.

  • Ancient joke. Young man, married or soon to be, is talking with his elder about what forms of sex are permitted. "May we have sex face-to-face?" he asks. "Certainly," says the elder, "as often as you like." "Spoon-fashion?" asks the child, "doggy style?" "With my blessings," says the elder. "May we have sex standing up?" the young man asks. The elder gets serious, and says, "No, you may not, for that, my child, may lead to dancing."
  • There's one about a young fellow telling his friend that he got beat up because his girlfriend's father caught him dancing the lambada with her. The friend asks, "What, is he crazy?" and the reply is, "No, he's deaf."

  • In Discworld novels, Nanny Ogg has much more to say about folksongs, folk dances, maypoles and suchlike things than Granny Weatherwax wanted to hear. And it's not exactly about that song.
  • One short story in the Wild Cards series makes mention of the Wedding Pattern, a dance a Takisian couple does at their wedding party that's supposed to end in full-on copulation.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novels, the Gypsies have a dance called the tanana which very much invokes this trope. It's used in "Being a Green Mother" where prim and proper Orb stuns her bandmates by dancing this to convince a magical whale to transport them (it only transports Gypsies). And in "And Eternity", someone selected as an aspect of Fate dances this to convince the other aspects.
  • In The Old-Girl Network by Catherine Alliott Polly tries to win Nick over through this method, but is too drunk. In the second book, Going Too Far she shares such a dance with Sam.
  • Referenced in David Eddings' The Elenium, when a would-be Gentleman Thief is trying to teach his Thieves' Guild to act like gentlefolk, and chastises one prostitute for concluding one of her business arrangements on the ballroom floor. She retorts that it's just a different kind of dancing, to which he replies that the vertical kind is in vogue at the moment.
  • In the Kiesha'ra series, the dances of the Serpiente are supposed to be much more sexual that those of the Avians. A certain kind is only to be danced with between mates.
  • In the Night Huntress books, Cat uses the excuse of blending in a night club to get very physical with her ex. Visibly aroused, he tells her that if she doesn't stop teasing him he'll find them a room and finish what she's starting.
  • The Action Heros Handbook has an entire chapter titled "How to Dirty Dance" that covers this sort of dancing.
  • The Queen of the Black Coast does this for Conan the Barbarian. Right in front of her crew.
  • In Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney's Establishing Character Moment is him explaining to Catherine his view of dancing as a metaphor for marriage.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • The episodes "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" make use of the second version of this trope, but it was also invoked in "The Girl In The Fireplace".
    • The metaphor showed up again in the episode "Silence in the Library" (or possibly "Forest of the Dead").
  • Sabrina Bryan and Mark Ballas were like this on Dancing with the Stars. It was no surprise to find out they hooked up in real life.
    • Heck, pretty much everyone does this at least once. This is a family show, right?
  • Parodied in Babylon 5 when Ivanova got out of having sex with an alien by convincing him that a strange dance routine was how humans did it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy did this with Xander in the Season 2 premiere, apparently just to make Angel jealous. Or maybe to mess with Xander's head too. Both worked:
    Buffy: Why, are you jealous?
    Angel: What, of Xander? He's just a kid.
    Buffy: Is it 'cause I danced with him?
    Angel: "Danced with" is a pretty loose term. "Mated with" might be a little closer.
  • In How I Met Your Mother Lily and Marshall rediscovered their youth while dancing in a club. Ted, as the narrator, comments on their dancing first being nice and then getting icky.
  • You could say Carlos and Nora get into this at Bree's wedding in Desperate Housewives. By the end of the night he's getting her zipper open and heading towards the third base... Tom comments on this and Gabby gets really upset.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess
    • "The Bitter Suite". The Tango. Ares. Xena. That is all.
    • Also "Heart of Darkness". Gabrielle and Xena that time.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ("You Are Cordially Invited"). During Jadzia Dax's party, Nog can be seen doing the Ferengi mating dance for an amused Kira Nerys (the dance was made up on the spot by actor Aron Eisenberg,). At the end of the scene, Jadzia and the others join in too.
  • The famous, scorching hot tango between Niles and Daphne in the classic Frasier episode "Moon Dance" probably qualifies, even though the desire is unspoken and unacknowledged the sexuality of the dance is in the characters' and actors' chemistry and the fact that Daphne was playing it up to show up some people who had been patronizing Niles, leading to a Tear Jerker when she starts laughing about their over-passionate performance, innocently oblivious to the fact that Niles was completely serious.
  • Kris correctly identifies the hula as one in the "Angels in Paradise" episode of Charlie's Angels:
    Kris: Ah excuse me, isn't that dance illegal?
    Kelly: Joke all you want. The hula's really great exercise.
    Kris: Uh huh. I'm just talkin' about what else it is.
  • Orange Is The New Black : Piper and Alex. Piper gets thrown into solitary for it.
  • In Season 2 of the Australian series Fire, a male and female firefighter dance the tango and end up making out on the floor; the woman backs off from sex at the last moment, not wanting to be involved with a colleague.

  • "Private Dancer" by Tina Turner and "Dancing with Myself" by Billy Idol use dancing as a metaphor for sex.

    Music Video 

    Puppet Shows 

  • The musical Company has the solo dance number "Tick Tock" (cut from some revivals), in which Kathy's movements are a metaphor both for the ideal of "making love" and the banality of "having sex" — the latter being what Robert and April are heard but not seen doing.
  • Similar to "Tick Tock" is "Bang!" which was cut from A Little Night Music. It was put into Putting It Together, in which two characters do a dance which is a metaphor for sex and narrated by another character. The fact that the other character is referred to as "the Observer" throughout the show adds an aspect of voyeurism to this song, remedied only by the fact that he isn't actually "there".
  • Pippin
    • In a similar vein, when Pippin and Catherine get into bed, they temporarily disappear while a scantily clad dance couple executes a seductive routine. The climax of this is the woman dancer making an acrobatic leap and the man catching her in his arms; the first time, they don't connect and Pippin and Catherine are revealed apologizing to each other.
    • "With You" from the same show leads to a sex orgy in interpretive dance form.
  • "Contact" in RENT, in which the ensemble's dance converges under a big white sheet.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation