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The warden said, "Hey, buddy, don't you be no square
If you can't find a partner use a wooden chair."
Elvis Presley, "Jailhouse Rock"
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Just because something is nonliving doesn't mean it can't be part of a song. This trope happens mostly in musicals and operas, when a character interacts with an inanimate object during a musical number. It exists partially to make a scene look more realistic. For instance, which would be more effective: a character who is carrying a broom and instantly stops using it just to sing a song, or a character who is carrying a broom, starts singing and incorporates the broom into the song? Most musicals would choose the latter.

This trope exists in two forms:

  • The character uses, say, a broom for its intended purpose, but doing it to the beat or rhythm of the music.
  • The character dances with or plays with the broom during the song.

Note: This trope incorporates inanimate objects as part of the choreography of a musical number. If a number uses such objects as musical instruments or use them for percussive reasons, it is not this trope, it is an example of Everything Is an Instrument. Compare Dancing with Myself.

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Examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • Lamput: In "Skinny's Dance Night", Slim Doc practices for a dance with his girlfriend by grooving to some music with a surrogate partner, a hat hanging pole with a picture of his crush placed on top.

    Film — Animated 
  • Played with in Beauty and the Beast. Of course the household objects all have rhythm. They're all alive.

    Film — Live Action 
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    Live Action TV 
  • Fraggle Rock: In "Mokey's Funeral", after creating Rags, Mokey dances with her while singing "Ragtime Queen."
  • Scrubs:
    • The show pulls this in the intro to the second episode. As JD finds his feet, everything "clicks" in time with his music. And yes, there is a broom.
    • One episode has JD being put on the spot to do something "special" for Dr Cox, who is sure JD has something planned and refuses to leave until JD reveals it. As JD taps his pen on the counter trying to think of something, the sounds of activity around happen to sync up perfectly into a little tune, which Dr Cox takes as JD's doing and leaves, satisfied. JD notes the implausibility of what just happened.

    Theater 
  • "One Boy" in Bye Bye Birdie has Rosie dancing with Albert's baggage.
  • This video of Kristin Chenoweth's "Glitter and Be Gay" in Candide shows you that you can never do too much with your jewelry.
    • There's also a number where Patti LuPone and three men toss a money bag to each other to the rhythm of the song.
  • In the musical Chicago, Velma Kelly apparently loves to dance with chairs.
  • Subverted in the revival of Company. When the actors aren't engaging in musical number, they make other uses of the orchestral instruments they carry around. Including the piano. Especially the piano.
    • Well, any Encores production of a show will do something similar, given that they have to carry those black binders around everywhere.
  • In Death Note: The Musical, Light and L both use their tennis rackets for this purpose in "Playing His Game".
  • The Crapshooters' Dance from Guys and Dolls is Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a bunch of gamblers shooting dice, set to music.
  • Into the Woods does this twice in the prologue. Once when some cookies get passed from Red Riding Hood to the Baker to his wife to the basket and back to Red, or something along those lines, all to the tempo of the music (and then Red makes real use of the cookies in the middle of a line). The second time happens when Cinderella is twisting her stepsister's hair to the beat. She keeps following the beat, thus making the hair too tight. Her stepsister, needless to say, is less than pleased.
  • Kiss Me, Kate's "I Hate Men" involves Kate smashing something at the end of almost every line. Observe.
  • Love In Hate Nation: In "Solitary," the inmates, with the exception of Susannah and Sheila, are banging various things and body parts against the walls and pipes of Nation out of boredom, but because "Love in Hate Nation" is a musical, this banging is rhythmic.
  • During the "Consider Yourself" number in Oliver!, most prominently in the film, everyone does this with whatever it is they happen to be doing. Except maybe Dodger and Oliver.
  • In South Pacific, Nellie Forbush dances with a hat at one point.
  • In Sunday in the Park with George, George paints to the rhythm of "Color and Light". Dot puts on makeup to the rhythm of same.
  • In some productions of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the final note of the show is punctuated by the slamming of a door. Probably one of the most epic moments in the whole play.
    • "The Worst Pies in London" is punctuated by the sounds of Mrs. Lovett kneading dough, stamping on cockroaches, and bustling noisily (but rhythmically) around her dingy shop.
  • Linus and his blanket from The Musical version of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

    Video Games 
  • In Mother 3, you can tap buttons on the controller in time with the music to score combos just after your attack. This grows more difficult, however, as odd time signatures are introduced.
  • Many of the minigames in Rhythm Heaven use rhythm to fulfill a certain task, provided that the minigame isn't an outright performance. Such tasks include playing sports, assembling robots, and translating alien speech.
  • The Sims 2: A Romance Sim who goes into Aspiration Desperation will pull out a mop with a crude mask on it and try to ballroom dance with it.

    Web Original 
  • This video has a man dancing with a metal hoop. It somehow manages to be one of the most bizarrely romantic modern dances in the history of modern dance.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: In "Hop Pop and Lock", Hopediah Plantar tries to brush up on his dance moves by dancing around with a mop. Unfortunately, he dips it too far and it breaks, sending him careening into a bookshelf.
  • On the Classic Disney Short "How To Dance", Goofy uses a dresser's mannequin to practice dancing. Being Goofy, the mannequin proves less than cooperative.
  • Phineas and Ferb try this while cleaning the bathroom with their toothbrushes after getting sent to reform school in "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted". They're interrupted mid-jam by the drill-sergeant, who bellows "NO FUNKY RHYTHMS!" An even bigger example would be in "Dude, We're Getting the Band Back Together", while they were recruiting the drummer of their parent's favorite band. He insisted he'd lost his sense of rhythm after falling asleep in a metronome factory, but Phineas and Ferb broke out into song to show him he still had it.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Bart After Dark", the musical number 'We Keep The Spring in Springfield' includes such effects as Moe banging bin lids together, someone 'boing'ing Bumblebee Man's antenna and Lenny smacking someone in the head (accidentally) with a sledgehammer.
  • In the Tom and Jerry short "Mouse in Manhatten", Jerry dances with a placecard holder shaped like a doll. When their dancing carries them to another one, he tosses the first one aside and starts dancing with the next, then does the exact same thing again upon encountering a third.

Alternative Title(s): Inanimate Dance Partner

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