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Mating Dance

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"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, a euphemism, or a Double Entendre for sex. Not describing sex set to a beat, but they might as well have. It also applies to a performer who is thrusting, pumping or grinding their pelvis to simulate sexual intercourse while singing a sex song. Fusion Dance may sound like a literal version of this, but that type is actually quite different. Not quite the same as Dance of Romance, but couples who dance that might end up dancing this eventually.

Tenuously related to Intercourse with You. Contrast with Three Minutes of Writhing, which may invoke this trope.


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  • A Geico commercial used a couple dancing a tango, with a third guy trying to fit in between them.
  • At the 18 second mark in this Farmer's Insurance commercial, the Casanova Wannabe is thrusting and pumping his pelvis while dancing.

    Comic Books 
  • Referenced (in the biological sense) in Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin asks his father whether he did a mating dance when he met Calvin's mother (like the one Calvin saw a couple of birds doing in a nature documentary on TV). After Calvin shows him a rather vigorous reenactment of the birds' mating dance...
    Dad: Yes, that's more or less the way I reacted.
    Mom: To what, buster? Think carefully.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! story A Game of Masques, "sex equals dancing" is a pretty strong theme (possibly a side effect of keeping it low-rated enough to be on The scene in an early chapter where Yugi teaches Yami to dance might as well be a sex scene, and they have a sad dance later that looks a lot like tragic break-up sex.
  • In Ghosts of the Past, sequel of Child of the Storm, this trope is Downplayed for the Yule Ball - Harry and Carol have an up-close and sexy dance, the Mambo (a more restrained relative of the Tango) but not quite as overtly sexual as most examples on this page. This was intentional by the author, who remarked that considering their respective ages of 14 and a half (physically, the former is 15, but his mind and body were separated for about 6 relative months) and 15 and a half, taking it further would be entering Squick territory.
  • In The Magic of Torchwood, a Harry Potter and Torchwood crossover, a de-aged Ianto references this at the Yule Ball, remarking that it's all just a veiled mating ritual - and then, naturally, adds that Jack has just danced with every girl in the building. Including Madame Maxime!
  • Many My Little Pony fans seem to think that pegasi act like birds, and some artists draw them dancing like birds.
  • The Mob Psycho 100 fanfic Discovery Channel Serizawa literally does one of these to court Reigen. Justified in-universe as this is just normal biology for them, though people stopped doing that in public in the mid-'90s.
  • Unbreakable Red Silken Thread: Scarlett works as an exotic dancer, and, while she's not exceptionally attractive (even if still considered a pretty woman), her dancing is extremely good. Heather even asks her for dancing lessons.

    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 
  • At Midnight (2023): Sophie and Alejandro's first date ends with them passionately dancing tango together. In a gender role reversal, she's actually the much better dancer and is the one who aggressively leads him.
  • 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.
  • 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. and 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 succinctly 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 (1999), 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 Easy Virtue, Larita asks her husband John for a dance, but he declines. She ends up dancing with Jim instead, her father-in-law — and there are more than just a few sparks in that tango.
  • Played very straight in Honey 2, where Maria (Kat Graham) and Brandon (Randy Wayne) are left alone in Honey Daniels' studio and have a steamy dance number complete with kissing and groping. The sequence ends with the pair giving each other 'the eye', and dip below the camera to have sex... in the middle of the dance floor. Mind you, their other dance troupe members are due to return at any moment.
  • 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.
  • Zorro:
    • 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 Painted-On Pants, however, provide a hint of what to expect on 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 for 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.
  • The Wicker Man: Willow's naked dance. 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.
  • National Lampoon's Vacation: Christie Brinkley throws suggestive dance moves at Clark Griswold and he does the same in return in the Dancing With a Sandwich scene. She also uses her bottle as a phallic symbol and he goes as far as to open the bread on his ham and cheese sandwich like he's spreading her legs.
  • Death on the Nile establishes the passionate relationship between Simon Doyle and Jacqueline de Bellefort with a steamy dance that stops just short of the two ripping each other's clothes off and humping in the middle of a crowded nightclub dance floor.
  • In Bitter Moon, Nigel attempts this with Mimi but bungles it since he can't actually dance. His wife is much more successful, but it probably didn't help that Nigel was being deliberately set up for this outcome.

  • Ancient joke, most often told about Protestant Christians (especially Baptists) by non-Protestants (especially Catholics). 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."

  • Discworld:
    • In the novels, Nanny Ogg has much more to say about folksongs, folk dances, maypoles, and suchlike things than Granny Weatherwax wants to hear. And it's not exactly about that song.
    • In Reaper Man, Death dances a tango with Mrs. Flitworth, who afterwards asks if it's legal.
  • 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 than 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 Hero's 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. Then they have sex right in front of the crew.
  • In Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney's Establishing Character Moment is him explaining to Catherine his view of dancing as a metaphor for marriage.
  • It's mentioned in Tailchaser's Song that cats do a mating dance called the "Dance of Acceptance". Tailchaser and his love Hushpad were doing it but couldn't finish it before sunrise. They planned on completing it the next night, but Hushpad is nowhere to be seen. She's mysteriously disappeared. When Tailchaser finds her at the end of the novel, she's a spayed pet. They never finish the Dance of Acceptance as Tailchaser soon leaves Hushpad for good.
  • In the Robert A. Heinlein novel The Number of the Beast the narrator of the first chapter is dancing with a young woman (a tango, of course) and somewhat jokingly observes that after that dance they should get married. While he wasn't entirely serious, a Fourth-Date Marriage—really, more of a first date marriage—very rapidly ensues.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Zig-zagged in one episode of Chuck (appropriately titled "Chuck versus the Tango"), Casey tells Chuck he must learn the Tango to infiltrate a fancy ball. Captain Awesome happily teaches him... but Chuck realizes too late he learned the "girl part" of the dance.
  • 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 gets out of having sex with an alien by convincing him that a strange dance routine is how humans do it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
  • 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.
  • 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. Truth be told, their dance was so hot, that when Niles finally gets a divorce, his soon-to-be-ex-wife tries to use it as evidence that he must have been cheating on her before they separated.
  • 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.
  • Lost Girl. Kenzi dances a threesome tango with Dyson and Hale, both of whom are attracted to her at the time.
  • In season 2 of The Tudors, Henry and Anne dance a passionate volta together. The scene is spliced with a bodice-ripping, rough sex scene between them that happens after the dance.
  • Dancing with the Stars has Erin and Maks dancing freestyle and the samba.
  • The Voice: Ricky Martin is grinding his pelvis in this worldwide exclusive performance at "The Voice Grand Finale".
  • On Australia's Got Talent, Dylan Yeandle performs this striptease while singing "Sex Bomb''.
  • Married... with Children: Discussed in "Ship Happens, Part 1" when Gretchen, the aerobics instructor mentions clothing-optional lambada.
  • 7 Yüz: In "Prosedür", İrem dances rather suggestively with her ex-boyfriend Rıdvan at the nightclub, grinding against him in a sexual manner. The sight puts Banu in a sour mood, ultimately driving her to leave the club in tears.

  • "Private Dancer" by Tina Turner and "Dancing with Myself" by Billy Idol use dancing as a metaphor for sex.
  • In "Momma Was A Dancer" by K.T. Olsin, the narrator tells her daughter about how she developed her sexual prowess by dancing:
    I was known as Nelda Jean Prudie
    I was a real Texas cutie
    I drove a Thunderbird
    I had a pony tail
    Me and Jimmy McCool
    Would drive to Nat's Cafe
    Where we would dance the day away
    And every Friday and Saturday night
    I'd go to the gym
    And I'd dance all night
    That's how your momma, Nelda Jean Prudie
    Had fun
  • "Bump And Grind" by David Lee Roth:
    Shake it slowly
    Do that bump and grind, woah
    Rotate slowly
    Make it bump and grind, woah, yeah, huh

    Music Videos 

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 

  • 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".
  • In Hadestown, during the instrumental break in "All I've Ever Known", Orpheus and Eurydice have a rather... suggestive ballet dance that ends with Eurydice on top of Orpheus before they lay on the floor to stargaze.
  • 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.
  • Tsukiuta: Haru and Hajime's duet song "Koiwasuregusa", when they perform it in the stage play, is heated throughout, and the last portion involves Hajime holding Haru in his arms and running a hand down his body, before grabbing the end of the red sash that Haru wore around his waist, and pulling it off. They each hold one end of the sash and stretch it across the stage. The backup dancers try to run through it but bounce off, unable to break the tie of fate between Hajime and Haru. In the end, Hajime holds the sash to his face and gazes after Haru, as if savoring his lover's scent.

  • Tamagotchi: The Mesutchi and Osutchi dance around when they connect to marry and reproduce.

    Video Games 
  • In the Mass Effect 3 Citadel DLC, a female Shepard can have one of these with Garrus if he has been previously romanced. It starts off being Played for Laughs, Shepard being an infamously bad dancer, but with the assistance of a few player prompts, the two start to really get into it.
  • In EarthBound Beginnings there is a house where the third party member will leave Ninten and Ana alone to be together in a room with two beds, in which Ana will ask if Ninten likes her and they will engage in a very intimate dance. The party member returns after and asks why they're blushing.
  • Used in Monster Hunter: World with Teostra and Lunastra, the male and female of an Elder Dragon species. The two have a "bonding" ritual where the leonine dragons dance elegantly around each other, finishing with the Teostra in the air above and behind the Lunastra. This is easy to miss, as what the two are actually doing is combining their supernova blasts, and hunters typically use the dance time to flee the "Instant Death" Radius.

  • The "Out!" story arc of Least I Could Do introduces Rayne to grinding. He feels that the art of the pick up should be something more than just rubbing your junk on a girls ass and ends up in a hump off that ends painfully.
  • In Crossoverkill, when Captain Perfect asks Hoodoo what kind of dancing she wants, her answer is "Dirty."
  • In Girl Genius, Zeetha has a few single versions — one when talking about how in her Lost City they worship the goddess of fertility ("Our holy days are fun! Cha cha cha!) and another when putting on a show for the people of Mechanicsburg whilst wearing a tiny leather bikini.
    Zeetha: [out of frame] And, never fear, folks, I'm sure he intends to wed her most vigorously!
    Krosp: They'll talk about it alright. If only because of Zeetha's hand gestures.
    Sleipnir: And the little dance!

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Last Tap Dance in Springfield", Lisa watches a fictional film called La Tango De La Muerte, where the eponymous dance the main characters perform is sexual in more ways than one:
      Eduardo: You are now carrying my child.
      Lisabella: But how?
      Eduardo: It is the mystery of the dance.
    • "Blame it on Lisa", Marge and Lisa walk by a samba school in Brazil, showing several suggestive dance pairs, with an instructor claiming they want to push things even further.
      Dance Instructor: This is where we invented the lambada and the macarena. Now we are working on our most powerful dance: the penetrada! It makes sex look like a church!
      Marge: I don't think my daughter should be hearing this.
      (Marge and Lisa walk away)
      Dance Instructor: You cannot protect her forever! You stupid lady!
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In "The Headband", Katara and Aang share a dance (popularly referred to as the Kataango) which turns in borderline G-Rated Sex.


Tango At Midnight

Sophie and Alejandro's first date ends with them passionately dancing tango together.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / MatingDance

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