A Rain Dance is a ceremonial religious dance performed by people (usually aboriginal) who want to appeal to God/the gods to make it rain. Although it is commonly seen as a Native American device, rain dances have been practiced since Ancient Egyptian times. Rain Dances have been seen as recently as the 20th century in the Balkans.
Probably close to a Dead Horse Trope, in fiction it is used almost exclusively for laughs. The (non-believing) characters dance, sometimes in full-feathered headdress, and... something other than rainfall happens. Sometimes the characters will look at a "step chart" after such a failure and remark, "Oh, wait, that was the ______ dance!"
And no, this doesn't allude to Singin' in the Rain! If they succeed, Happy Rain ensues. May be followed by a Redemption in the Rain shot, or possibly Battle in the Rain. One comedic result can be a Personal Raincloud.
- Played with in Soul Eater, when Spirit does a rain dance outside his daughter's apartment window in order to give her luck on her exams. He obviously has no idea what he is doing, however, dancing around a bucket with lit candles duct-taped to his head.
- In one Lucky Luke strip, an area inhabited by Native Americans is suffering from serious drought. As it turns out, their shaman has fallen from a horse and hit his head. He is otherwise OK, but can't get the dance right and his various attempts only produce minor weather anomalies (like a small blizzard after he does the macarena).
- In another, a group of irate native dignitaries enters the local saloon to deliver an angry message to the townspeople. These include their shaman... and his unruly apprentice, who is far more interested in the saloon girls than their mission, and decides to start dancing on the stage. Afterwards, it starts raining in the girls' dressing-room.
- Calvin attempts a snow dance to get school canceled. (It doesn't work.)
- Parodied in one The Far Side cartoon where the Indian chief is consulting a book called "101 Rain Dances" to figure out what the hell kind of dance he was doing ... while it's raining eggbeaters. The PreHistory of The Far Side also includes a rough draft of this cartoon which instead depicts an "Early American Cow Dance."
- In FoxTrot, Jason and Marcus once did a snow dance. Paige joined them in the hope that school might be canceled if it worked.
- In The Dresden Files, Injun Joe does this as a weapon against a shapeshifter, since running water will cancel out magic.note
- In Claudius The God, a Roman commander whose troops are lost in the desert follows his native guide's advice to invoke the local rain god. It works.
- In the children's horror anthology Still More Scary Stories for Sleepovers, a Rain Dance causes the Downer Ending in "Night of the Ki-Khwan". Perhaps the only time a Rain Dance was ever played for horror.
- How I Met Your Mother has Ted perform Rain Dance as an Overly Long Gag in a desperate attempt to keep Robin from leaving to a company camping trip because she's close to dating her colleague. He did make it rain and it was one of his best Grand Romantic Gestures.
- In Double The Fist, Womp performed a rain dance that summoned... hamburgers.
- The X-Files. In "The Rain King", Daryl Mootz does The Theme Park Version of a rain dance, claiming Magical Native American ancestry. Scully and Mulder are not impressed...until it starts bucketing down out of a clear sky.
- In an episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide a reverse rain dance is performed by Coconut Head and the other boys to get it to be sunny (after several days of rain, and therefore students cooped up indoors).
- The old Truth or Consequences program once had one hapless contestant dress up in full Indian regalia, feather headdress, buckskins, drums, and have him dance about in public supposedly to make it rain; his antics drew a total crowd of one.
- One Saturday Night Live had several characters in a restaurant complaining about various inconveniences, and then cutting to a closeup of the guilty party nervously glancing from side-to-side. On the way out, they notice it's suddenly raining when there wasn't a cloud in the sky when they arrived. Cut to an Indian chieftain sitting in a corner booth, nervously shifting his gaze.
- The Goodies do a rain dance with some pretty native girls to drive away the tourists the villainous Nasty Person is trying to bring to the Lost Island of Munga. Somehow it turns into the square dance halfway through. The subsequent storm is a bit too successful and ends up blowing them out to sea on a raft.
- In Deadlands, a shaman who knows the appropriate favour can cause rain, and one way to earn the needed "credit" with the spirits is by dancing.
- In the Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales episode "The Rainmakers", Chumley attempts a rain dance indoors, which does nothing. This is, of course, the lead-in to Professor Whoopee's explanation of what really makes rain.
- US Acres, from Garfield and Friends, has Roy buying a robot that will do dances for whatever... rain, snow, buckets of bolts, etc. Explained in the Literal Genie entry.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon "Grand Canyonscope", Donald fools around with a genuine raindancing costume and manages to summon a Personal Rain Cloud before the ranger catches him. Note that when Donald dances a traditional dance, nothing happens. But when he switches over to the Charleston... instant rain!
- In a Road Runner episode, Wile E. Coyote creates a thunderstorm by using the rain dance. It doesn't help.
- Alluded to in the Goofy cartoon short "How to Dance." A crowd of characters are dancing to tribal drumming music, and it rains on just them, and they all unfurl umbrellas as they continue dancing.
- A bumper series on The Beatles cartoon has the boys mistaking a desert for the beach, and thus dying of thirst. The sand is so hot it has Ringo jumping around wildly and it turns out to be a rain dance that makes it rain. In the last segment, the torrent of rain causes a mammoth flood as Ringo doesn't know how to make it stop.
- In Alpha and Omega, Humphrey attempts a rain dance (and song) to try and STOP rain. Upon being informed of this, he starts singing and dancing in reverse.
- The Warners short "Sioux Me" has a group of generic American Indians singing "Weeeee waaaant rainnnnn" and dancing around. It doesn't work at first, but a helpful traveling salesman and a small Indian boy save the day for them, especially for their shaman, who's been threatened with decapitation by the chief.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Camp Keep a Good Mac Down", Bloo practices one. Later, Mac starts a campfire only to lose it to a downpour.
Bloo: See? My rain dance worked!