The Dance off is a type of contest, but rather than one anyone can enter, it's a form of duel between two or more mutual antagonists, either singular or more commonly groups.
For one reason or another, one dancer or group of dancers (often the Dancing Royalty) is convinced their moves are the best, the sweetest, the most unbeatable. But someone else challenges them, to knock them down a few pegs, or for the attention of a Love Interest. The Trope is usually a fun or comedy trope but can venture into Duel to the Death territory if the stakes become high enough. The challenge does not even have to be formally made.
Usually the dancers take turns showing off their increasingly elaborate moves until one person or group concedes they have nothing left, can't match the moves of the other or one or both dances themselves into collapsing from exhaustion.
While it is possible for participants to be Dance Battler, that trope is not employed here. The dance-off does not contain actual combat.
Dance Off is a sister trope to Cooking Duel, wherein the duel is usually something silly for silly reasons with silly weapons of choice. Compare Battle of the Bands. When competing over a Love Interest, this trope revolves around Artists Are Attractive.
Film - Animated
- Cats Don't Dance: Naïve Newcomer Danny and Ice Queen Sawyer conduct one of these during an impromptu talent show near Mammoth Studios, complete with Trash Can Band. Tillie's hip toss sends Sawyer reeling into the spotlight, where she takes a few blithe steps and poses. "Not bad," comments Danny, "A little rusty, but hey, who's perfect?" Giving Danny a Death Glare, Sawyer snarls, "I'll give you rusty." The two Funny Animal felines then take turns out-stepping each other, culminating in a pirouette and dip finale ... and an Almost Kiss.
- Ferdinand: The bulls engage in a dance competition with the snooty horses on the other side of the fence. They win after the horses stumble against each other and get shocked on the electrified fence.
Film - Live Action
- Earth Girls Are Easy: An unnamed man steps into Deca Dance and sees Zeebo dancing with a pretty black woman. He sneers at Zeebo's moves and tells the girl "why dance with a zero when you can dance with a hero?" The girl is happy to dance with whomever. Zeebo, offended at having been cut in on, attempts to dance with her as well, but the new guy is not having it and challenges him. The new guy pulls out his best moves. Zeebo, who has an incredible mimicry ability because he's an alien, watches for a second, matches him move for move, and then completely mops the floor with him with acrobatic moves the new guy can't match.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Subverted and Played for Laughs. Peter Quill challenges Ronan to a dance off at the film's climax. Ronan, being raised in a Proud Warrior Race, has no idea what Quill is on about, and just looks on with absolute confusion. Even Gamora is flabbergasted. This doesn't stop Quill from continuing to dance until his people can attack.
- The parodic film version of Starsky & Hutch had a disco scene with a dance-off between Ben Stiller as Starsky and Har Mar Superstar.
- In American Wedding, Stifler nearly got into trouble after antagonizing several patrons at a gay bar. To settle off with the dispute, he challenges one of the patrons at a gay bar for a dance-off where he wins and the loser provided him strippers for Jim's bachelor party.
- The premise of the Step Up movies is this trope where the protagonists had to compete in hip-hop dance competitions against several rival dancers. There's usually a dance-off between the protagonist and the love interest.
- The Can-Can was choreographed as this in the film Moulin Rouge!.
- In 1932's Taxi! - James Cagney and Loretta Young compete in foxtrot contest and lose. When the winning contestant gloats just a bit too much, Cagney knocks him out.
- Hunter Street: Anika is practicing to join the school dance team. When her rival Janine walks in on her training session and is unpleasantly dismissive of her skills, Daniel proposes this kind of contest to prove which girl is the better dancer.
- The unforgettable scene in The Office (UK) where Dave Brent tries to upstage a colleague who has just executed a perfect dance move, and ends up doing... that dance. The one with lots of awkward clumsy movements and grunting.
- Happens in episode 10 of Riverdale, when Veronica challenges Cheryl to a dance-off for the role of captain of the cheer leading squad. The ensuing contest has nothing to do with cheer leading. The two girls flip their hair, shake their hips, and draw as much attention to their chests and posteriors as possible instead of displaying the kinds of skills a cheer captain would need to possess.
- The Thundermans: When a shallow girl he is crushing on takes a college senior to the dance as her date, Max's confrontational attitude causes the senior to challenge Max to a dance off to prove who is the better man.
- Will & Grace once had Jack try out to be a dancer for Janet Jackson. Janet realizes that she doesn't need another dancer and has him compete with another more seasoned dancer in a dance off. The rival wins, but Janet decides she doesn't need him either.
- Legion: David does this against Oliver and Lenny who are controlled by Farouk to represent a psychic battle.
- The music video for RunD.M.C. vs Jason Nevins song "It's Like That" features one of these between two groups, one male and one female (Battle of the Sexes)
- The video for South African comedy singer Robbie Wessel's Macarena Mambo. note Played straight - or seemingly so - it takes this trope Up to Eleven for comic effect.
- The music video for "Shake It" by Metro Station shows off a number of different groups of dancers showing off their moves both singularly and together while the band plays.
- Stevie Richards and Bubba Ray Dudley had one in ECW in the 90's.
- Dancing was taken very seriously in ECW. An entire feud, The Blue Meanie and Super Nova vs. the FBI (Tracy Smothers, Little Guido Maritato and "The Big Don" Tommy Rich) was started over Smothers being a particularly awful dancer, though very much Played for Laughs
- The Public Enemy belong on that list as well.
- Black Rose and Barbie Boy, during their time in WWC and IWA Puerto Rico, rivaled one another both in the wrestling ring and on the dance floor.
- WWE has had a few over the years, but are usually played for laughs.
- After losing to WWE's resident Faux Action Girl, Stacy Keibler, Molly Holly challenged her to a contest of her choice. Stacy chose a dance-off, as she was a professional dancer (she broke into the business as WCW's new Nitro Girl in 1999). Molly wound up playing the role of Inept Talent Show Contestant.
- While she was Fandango's dance partner, Summer Rae challenged Emma to one in 2014. Emma, who was portrayed as a comedy character when she first came up from NXT, didn't take the contest seriously, doing moves like "The Shopping Cart".
- Kevin Steen ended up attacking The Human Tornado from behind in Ring of Honor when his crappy dancing prompted several other wrestlers to show him up, culminating in Tornado showboating.
- Truth Martini held his own unauthorized ROH event over the fact the promotion wouldn't give him "enough" time to host "pants off dance offs" between his perky female minions. Davey Richards, Silas Young, even Satan disapproved.
- Shane Strickland and ACH's dance off prior to their match at the International Wrestling Cartel's Twelfth Super Indy Tournament.
- The Osirian Portal would start these in CHIKARA, sometimes hypnotizing their opponents to get them to dance.
- Commonplace in events or situations where new forms of dancing have become popular. They would spontaneously erupt during the breakdancing craze of the 80s.
- Bayonetta does this with an angel who disguised herself as her and tried to take Cereza away. Bayonetta wins, pissing off the angel enough to attack her and reveal her true form.
- The first mini-game in Dexter's Laboratory: Mandark's Lab? is called "Dee Dee's Dance Off". It's a rhythm game where Dexter must copy his sister's dance moves and beat her.
- In SongBird Symphony, the penguins' leader and the blue-footed boobies' chef have a dance off to settle a territory dispute over the beach.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog 2: Special Edition, Knuckles the Echidna's Battle in the Center of the Mind against Dr. Robotnik takes the form of a dance-off.
Knuckles: I won't let you have the unlimited power of the Stamford branch!
Robotnik: There's only one way to settle this!
Super Sonic Dance Attack!
- In the Auralnauts Star Wars Saga, every serious personal conflict can only be solved by a dance fight. With glowsticks.
Anakin: "While you're relapsing, I'm gonna make money. I'm gonna have a better pad than you. I'll have job security."
Obi-Wan: Anakin, man! Since when did you become a total sellout?!"
Anakin: "I'll be the best dancer too..."
Obi-Wan: "Oh, I see. If it's a dance fight you want... a dance fight you will get."
- Bob's Burgers:
- "Two For Tina" has Jimmy Jr. and Josh competing in a dance-off for Tina's affections.
- In "Bob Actually", Bob and Teddy take a hip-hop dance class and get challenged to a dance-off by the teacher's son. As the dance battle begins, the son hurts himself, so Bob and Teddy win by default before they even make a move.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: The episode "Robot Randy'' features a breakdance contest between Courage and the titular robot for the lives of Eustace and Muriel.
- Dexter's Laboratory: The episode "Dee Dee's Rival" has Dee Dee facing Mandark's sister in ballet at the beginning. At the end of the episode, they compete againt each other while piloting Mini Mechas.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Double Dipper", Mabel faces off against Pacifica in a dance contest, with the winner to be decided by audience vote. Pacifica wins by one vote, and she bribed Old Man McGucket for it.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The episode "Billy Idiot" features a ballet dance off between Billy's dad and Ms. Pollywinkle the Witch Ballet Teacher. It gets parodied quickly as their start switching up dance styles such as Hawaiian Hula and That Russian Squat Dance. Billy's dad manages to win by mastering a powerful dance called "the Mabuhay Shuffle", which is basically the Chicken Dance that somehow causes a tremendous explosion.
- Looney Tunes: The Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon "Show Biz Bugs" has Daffy attempting to one-up Bugs at everything they try. There's a brief dance-off before Daffy tries to beat Bugs at something new. Bugs gets applause by tapping Shave and a Haircut, while Daffy's more energetic tap routine gets only Chirping Crickets.
- Wander over Yonder: In "The Party Animal". Emperor Awesome challenges Wander to a dance-off because he's offended that anyone can party as hard as he can. While he's taking it deadly seriously, Wander treats it like the most fun ever, and easily wins both the contest and the adoration of the crowd.
- In a short for My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Applejack and Rainbow Dash compete in one with their little sister and young fan, respectively. Pretty soon, though, they pretty much cut the younger ones out for a one-on-one competition. Then Apple Bloom and Scootaloo team up to upstage the two of them.
- Tom and Jerry Tales "Flamenco Fiasco" A suave Spaniard requests dancers compete for a golden guitar. Tom, with a girl cat versus Jerry and a girl mouse please him most and he declares a dance off. In his zeal to beat Jerry, Tom destroys the club. The Spaniard ends up beating him with the golden guitar.
- Vampirina: in "Vee Goes Viral", Vampirina and her friend learn a dance called The Spine Chiller from Gregoria, who can't remember why it went out of style. Vee's father Boris does: if 100 people or monsters do the dance at the same time, the greatest vampire dancer will emerge and challenge someone to a dance battle. Loser can never dance again. It's up to Vee and her friend to defeat the dancing vampire.