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This trope is Functional Magic or some other kind of power(s) that, instead of vocal recitations or drawings and diagrams, require specific body movements and rhythms to be activated. More often used by Magic Knights than by Squishy Wizards, given the more physical nature of its use.

For witches, this may take the form of a Nude Nature Dance (at midnight, naturally).

Compare Magical Gesture and Magic Music. Compare Dance Battler who uses dancing to directly attack enemies; that trope and this one can even be played together. Also see Full-Contact Magic. May be aided by or result in Summon Backup Dancers.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Dionysus of The Wicked + The Divine is a godly raver whose dance magic creates a consensual Hive Mind. At one point he weaponizes his party to create an army.
  • X-Men villain Spiral focuses her sorcery through dance involving her six arms.

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the more common complaints about The Last Airbender was that the elemental bending was portrayed in a way that less resembled martial arts like in the original show, and more resembled interpretative dance.

    Literature 
  • Alfred, and indeed all his fellow Sartan, of Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman's The Death Gate Cycle. Justified that the Sartan use magic runes, and drawing them on the floor by dancing them is a viable means of spellcasting.
  • Magic Steps, the first in Tamora Pierce's The Circle Opens books, is about a boy whose magic is evoked by dancing. For example, when he enchants fish into the nets of his people, he mimics the fish's leaping and swimming motions.
  • The serpents and falcons in Amelia Atwater-Rhodes's Kiesha'ra series started with the ability to use magic by dancing. The serpents lost this ability after their schism with the falcons, but the falcons are still able to harness magic in this manner.
  • In The Witch of Portobello, by Paulo Coelho, Athena's witchcraft involves dances.
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the senetha, the ritual dance of the Kencyr people, is used to channel the energy emitted by Kencyr temples and can be used for powerful magical ends, including the reaping of souls on a grand scale.
  • Naturally, this has made an appearance in The Dresden Files. The Magical Native American Listens-to-Wind used dancing as a catalyst for spells against the skinwalker. And proceeded to "kick [its] ass up between [its] ears".
  • Heralds of Valdemar has this included after a fashion. At least one character uses dancing to help cast a spell as part of a big group casting.
  • The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder has Ivy Carson, who is obsessed with dance. She is always making up dances for magical ceremonies and rituals, part of the elaborate "Land of the Green Sky" paracosm she shares with her friend Martha and sister (and possible Child Mage) Josie. Dance is an important part of the culture of Green-sky, which Snyder extrapolated from the little girls' game.
  • In Through the Motions, Marisol attempts to do this to make her brand new magic wand work, but it fails because she wasn't told she needed to touch the crystal to unseal its power. When she hands the wand off to Deanna, Deanna accidentally grabs the crystal part, giving her a nasty shock but also allowing her to improvise a dance that partially charges the wand for Sol.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Emerald City episode "Prison of the Abject", East's funeral rites included much swaying and shivering on the part of Glinda's acolytes and West's employees, as well as some flailing and shaking on the part of West herself. It's unclear how much of this was required for the magic of the funeral ritual to work (Glinda and West only mention "tongue" and "singing her to rest" when they discuss the ceremony) and how much was for show, but why would they bother with the theatrics when the Wizard admitted that he opened the ceremony up to the public to reinforce their prejudice against witches? It's implied not all rituals require this (Glinda looks shocked when West starts to dance), so it may be unique to the specific ritual West performed to take East's spells from her corpse.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Bard class, who uses performances to access his arcane magic. One of them is dance. Sadly, the performance for spells has to have a sound component.
    • The Kalamar D&D setting introduced a dance-specialized variant bard, specifically to resolve the issues with Perform (Dance) as a catalyst for bardic music abilities.
    • The Forgotten Realms setting also has the Spelldancer, once a favorite of the Character Optimization boards, that could increase the power of spells by dancing for a few rounds.
  • Spheres of Power has the Skilled Casting tradition that lets you use any Perform, Profession, or Craft check to cast your magic, This means that you can literally breakdance someone to death.
  • GURPS includes dance magic as a type of limitation on magery.
  • The Masque of Slaanesh in Warhammer/40k is a daemonette of Slaanesh who angered her master and was cursed to dance for all eternity. Anybody who sees her dancing is forced to dance along, even to the point of dying from exhaustion.
  • Exalted:
    • Pretty much any Performance Charm will work with dancing just as well as speechmaking, music, or any other performance. Want to stop an army in its tracks with a waltz? Go for it, and have a 2-die stunt while you're at it.
    • Also, the demon Stanewald has an arsenal of magical dances. The weakest one can make stone walls more breakable. The second-strongest can cause a castle to melt into lava. No mortal has ever seen the strongest one.
  • In Deadlands, shamans perform rituals to gain power. One of the possibilities is the dance ritual, which can be anything from a couple of minutes to a night-long ceremony with multiples dancers and musicians.

    Video Games 
  • Quest for Glory has dancing fairies that may kill the player if ticked off.
  • Fire Emblem has the Dancer class that is able to dance for another unit, allowing it an extra move. Especially notable in that regard is Ninian from Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, who is central to the plot since she's a half-dragon woman who has lost almost all her energy and powers, only being able to channel what's left through her dances and her magical rings. Her brother Nils does pretty much the same thing, but with a song.
    • Another Fire Emblem Dancer key to the plot is Azura from Fire Emblem Fates, who is a major character in the game and whose dancing is so magical that she dances to perform an exorcism on the King of Nohr.
    • Other characters of the Dancer class include Phina, Sylvia, Lene, Laylea, Larum, Tethys, and Olivia.
  • This is the entire mechanic of DanceDanceRevolution Mario Mix.
  • Shantae has Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities that she activates by belly dancing.
  • Final Fantasy has a Dancer job in several games:
    • Final Fantasy V featured the debut version of the job. Its special command, Dance, will perform one of four dances at random. One of these is Swords Dance, which attacks for four times as much damage as the regular Attack command, but it's too unreliable to use... unless the Dancer has an item equipped that replaces the least useful dance with another shot at Swords Dance, making the command quite powerful. There's also a weapon that replaces Attack with Dance regardless of which job they're currently using.
    • In Final Fantasy VI, Mog is a combination of Dancer and Geomancer. He learns new dances by fighting in suitable areas. Once he begins a dance, he will keep performing it for the rest of the battle. Each dance its own set of random effects with differently weighted probabilities of coming out.
    • Though Final Fantasy X doesn't use the job system or have a Dance command for battle, one of the most iconic story scenes is Yuna's Sending dance.
    • Final Fantasy X-2 has the Songstress dressphere, which combines Dancer with Bard. Each song or dance will affect the battle for its (long) duration, with songs buffing allies and dances placing status effects on enemies.
    • Final Fantasy XI has a version of the Dancer that's a healer as well as a debuffer and a fairly strong melee fighter.
    • In Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings, Penelo is a combination of Dancer with the classic White Mage job. She also appears in Final Fantasy Tactics A2, though she's a more standard debuffing Dancer in that game.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, Dancer is a Ranged DPS job that was added in the Shadowbringers expansion. Like its fellow ranged class Bard, it's quite weak in terms of personal damage but has a variety of support abilities, most notably giving a constant damage boost to one other party member that they designate their "dance partner".
    • Final Fantasy Tactics has Dancer as a female-only job that debuffs every enemy on the field in a variety of ways.
  • The Dragon Quest series has a few abilities that are this trope. Depending on the game, they are usable by the player or are enemy-only.
  • Ōkami features Mr. Orange performing the Konohana Shuffle (after consuming an entire jug of "Sake of Valor") to restore Kamiki Village's most sacred tree. While Amaterasu blooms the flowers in time with the dance ritual, it is impossible to blossom the giant tree without his help and the opening steps of his dance bloom three boughs of the giant tree in succession.
    • Another old man by the name of Mr. Flower has the Gura Shuffle, which he claims to have learned from "a certain flower dance master." His dance does not directly bloom the trees, but it lifts the remnants of a curse from the trees Amaterasu cannot bloom herself, allowing them to be restored.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl has Luigi's final smash, Negative Zone, done by spinning in place and contorting his body in several different poses throughout.
    • Peach also dances during her Final Smash, putting opponents to sleep.
  • Space Channel 5 has a "Simon Says" version of this. Everything is done by dancing.
  • This is Peppita's battle style in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, accompanied by Instant Runes.
  • A 2008 April Fool's joke for World of Warcraft claimed that a Bard class would soon be added to the game using this trope (manifesting in a Guitar Hero-style minigame). More to the point, some of the ingame holidays allow players to perform dances for special benefits (such as the Ribbon Dance during the Midsummer Festival, which boosts the performers experience gain). See here for more details.
  • The Dancer class in Ragnarok Online can cause a number of effects this way.
  • Jean from Lunar: Eternal Blue is introduced as a dancer, and discovers that she can adapt her dance moves for combat. Only later do we learn she's a martial artist with a dark secret.
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • In Kingdom Hearts II, Jack Skellington's limit ability "Applause, Applause" actives the technique "Dance Call" which features him and Sora unleashing various magic attacks while performing an intricate dance.
    • The Necho Cat and Frootz Cat Dream Eaters in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance can dance to heal their allies, or create harmful music notes. There's also their Rhythmic Groove link attack and the nearly identical Tail Groove link attack used by the Ducky Goose and Drak Quack dream eaters, which both have Sora perform a dance show with the associated dream eater (Music, lights, and cheering crowd included). This hurts things. Somehow.
  • There are a number of non-contact moves in Pokémon performed by dancing. Some raise or lower stats, such as Swords Dance and Feather Dance. Some create things to attack opponents with, such as Petal Dance and Fiery Dance. One of them, Rain Dance, changes the weather. One character in Pokémon X and Y, Tierno, aspires to be a dancer and fittingly enough specializes in these moves. Pokémon Sun and Moon also adds the Dancer ability, unique to the Pokémon Oricorio, which causes it to immediately copy any Dance move used by another Pokémon on the field.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon introduce "Z-moves," which are activated through the use of special crystals and dances taught to the player by various other characters.
  • In Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, Maroro uses thaumaturgy through a chicken dance to invoke fire magic, by the time of the sequel he upgrades to using simple hand gestures.
  • Persona 4: Dancing All Night: The world of the Midnight Stage inherently negates all violent actions. The Investigation Team is still able to make their way through by using dance to reach out to Shadows and expel them away.
  • In Six Ages, Rider mythology revolves around the principle of opposites: a god cannot exist absent of another god antithetical to their concept, because gods only come into being when humans need them. So the goddess of foraging befriends the god of hunger, even though they're always doing their best to chase each other away.
...For you see, she was dancing with him.

    Web Comics 
  • In Erfworld, some units have the "Dance Fighting" special ability, which confers a bonus in combat if they dance beforehand. Through magic it is possible to give any unit, or whole groups the Dance Fighting special ability.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-3688 is a series of body movements, which they call kinetoglyphs, that causes various anomalous effects when done accurately.
  • Whateley Universe: Fey uses an ancient Magic Dance to seduce some fire elementals into helping her, during her Christmas story.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang and Zuko learn and perform a dance-like fire bending ritual ("Dance of the Dragons") as part of their quest to learn the original form of Fire-bending (rather than relying on rage) from the original Masters (the dragons themselves). In the sequel series, we see the very first Avatar learning the dance from a dragon as part of his own quest to gain mastery over all four elements.
  • Most of June's special abilities in Little Einsteins are based around dancing.
  • Gems from Steven Universe can utilize a literal Fusion Dance to merge together into a stronger form. Whether they succeed depends in equal part on how synchronous the dance moves are, as well as the participants' mental states and emotions. The dance itself is eventually shown as not fully necessary (especially for Gems of the same type, who just turn into a bigger version of themselves when they fuse together), just an aid to help them get in synch physically and emotionally as they merge physically and mentally.
  • In The Dragon Prince, some forms of Primal Magic—particularly Moon Magic—can only be done by performing a dance ritual. It's implied that some Sky Magic requires both dancing and acrobatics.
  • Downplayed in The Owl House episode "Enchanting Grom Fright" where Luz and Amity dance to defeat Grometheus the Fear Bringer. Dancing in itself has no magical properties (it's clear that the two of them are just doing it for fun), but Amity uses the spinning motion from one of their moves to trace a magic circle with her feet.
  • A Season Two episode of Amphibia introduces the Plantar Family Hunting Dance, which is described is being "designed to both entice and disorient"; Sprig uses it to gather small creatures to use for food, while Anne later uses it to distract a large carnivore long enough for her adopted Frog family to escape. A late Season Three episode shows it being developed a thousand years ago by a Frog named Leif, heavily implying her to be the family's distant ancestor.

    Real life 
  • Several cultures have dances that are supposed to help with hunting, bring rain, for success in battle, etc.
  • Rain
    • Wu Shamans in China would preform sacrificial rain dances in times of drought.
    • In the Balkans the Dodola is dance performed by an orphaned girl, or rarely a boy, dances through the street, followed by the rest of the village, to call upon a goddess to bring rain.
    • In Africa kings or queens are often responsible for dancing to bring the rain and failure to do so has lead to the death of more than one ruler.
    • In North America the Zuni, Osage, and Quapaw are the tribes best known for their rain dances.

 
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Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dance Magic Dance

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Leif Does the Plantar Dance

Leif demonstrates to Andrias and Barrel a dance she had developed to entrance creatures...which turns out to be the Plantar Family Hunting Dance, revealing that Leif is actually a distant ancestor of Hop Pop, Sprig, and Polly.

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