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Sucks at Dancing

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George: Have you ever seen Elaine dance?
Jerry: [completely stops what he's doing and looks at George with horror] ...Elaine danced?
George: It was more like a full-body dry heave set to music.
Seinfeld, "The Little Kicks"

There's always that one person on the dance floor at a club/party/etc. that thinks they're on par with the likes of Michael Jackson, James Brown, or even Fred Astaire when it comes to dancing, but in reality, they couldn't stay on rhythm to a nursery rhyme if they tried. Oftentimes, this results in said person bumping into objects/people, if not knocking them down outright, stepping on toes, and all around making an idiot of themselves. Such a person will either get mocked for their dancing, or piss off the other dancers for being a klutz. In extreme cases, the offending "dancer" will actually hurt themselves and others, or get physically ejected from the dance floor, if not the venue itself.

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You've probably seen countless characters with this trait before. Hell, you might even know someone in real life (celebrity or otherwise) who fits this trope. Sucks At Dancing is a sister trope to I Can't Dance, with the obvious difference being that the character in question legitimately thinks they're a good dancer, instead of reluctantly acknowledging their lack of dance skills. Like I Can't Dance, expect a lot of lampshading, jeering, property damage and/or bodily harm to occur.

A variant of this invokes deliberate Stylistic Suck, where the character isn't that bad at dancing, but deliberately hams it up to make themselves seem worse than they really are. Bonus points if they can actually cut up a rug or two when not trying to make themselves look bad.

Another variant used in shows and movies featuring a cast of primarily Black characters is to either make the token white character as bad a dancer as possible, or have the other characters assume that he can't dance, only to be spectacularly proven wrong.

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If the bad dancer in question is also a singer, it can go hand in hand with Dreadful Musician and Hollywood Tone-Deaf. A complete opposite to the Dancing Royalty.


Examples:

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     Advertising 
  • There was a toothpaste commercial claiming to give "teeth so white they can't dance".

     Film — Animation 
  • Frozen: The Duke Of Weselton has a unique dance style that includes kicking his legs sideways, jumping around his partner like a peacock, crushing her toes and flopping his Dodgy Toupee.
  • According to The Little Mermaid III: Ariel's Beginning Aquata dances like a "spastic piece of kelp". This is at odds with previous comics that presented her as a good dancer due to ballet lessons. The film ignores the previous extended The Little Mermaid media in many ways (for example, Attina is the oldest sister in the third film but extended material previously put emphasis on Aquata as being the heir).

     Literature 
  • In Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie, the protagonist dances with a man who can't dance, but manages to save her toes by being a rather good dancer herself. Other women commiserate with her as the man is a known "danger".
  • In Gangsta Granny Ben can't ballroom dance so he makes up his own dance, which everyone hates.
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     Live Action TV 
  • Angel: Cordelia asks Angel to dance at a party in "She". Cue Imagine Spot of this trope, whereupon Angel says I Can't Dance. Wesley is implied to be an actual case — check out the credits scene in "She", and the Deleted Scene in "Waiting in the Wings" where Wesley has a fantasy he's ballet dancing with Fred.
  • Subverted on The Big Bang Theory when the girls take Sheldon out ballroom dancing, under the assumption that he'll be an awkward mess. To their surprise, he's quite good at it, thanks to the cotillion classes he was forced to take as a kid.
  • Any time Stephen Fry attempts to dance in A Bit of Fry and Laurie. It's truly painful to behold his attempts to "dancercise" or imitate Michael Jackson's moves—there is absolutely no sense of rhythm whatsoever.
  • Doctor Who: "The Big Bang" reveals that the Eleventh Doctor cannot dance at all well, tearing up the floor at Amy and Rory's wedding reception with a truly awful dance affectionately dubbed "the Drunken Giraffe" by fans.
  • Played with in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air:
    • Will Smith is an unbelievably bad dancer in-universe, often getting disapproving or violent reactions from onlookers. Several notable reactions have included:
      • Getting booed and pelted with trash onstage by a crowd.
      • Getting tossed out of a club by security.
      • And getting silently dissed by Don Cornelius during the Soul Train line.
      • The season six episode "Viva Lost Wages" nearly averted this. In an effort to get the money back they lost from gambling in Las Vegas, Will and Carlton enter a dance contest doing a goofy dance routine, but they both remain perfectly on rhythm during most of it. It all goes to hell at the end when they try to one-up their opponents with a complex dance routine and Will loses his grip on Carlton, sending him flying into a wall.
    • Carlton himself, on the other hand, is a subversion, as he's capable of busting out moves worthy of Michael Jackson himself on certain occasions (an allusion to the Pepsi commercials Alfonso Ribero did in the mid-80s with Michael) and even his infamous "Carlton Dance" is quite polished. This was shown best when he and Will did it together, and the latter's attempt wasn't quite as smooth as Carlton's.
  • David Brent, self-deluded office manager in The Office (UK), with his cringe-inducing memorable attempt at sexy dance moves at an office party, which boil down to spasmodic and random arm movements, grunting, and gyrating.
  • The Seinfeld episode "The Little Kicks" shows that Elaine is a terrible dancer, kicking her legs sideways and jabbing her thumbs over her shoulders.note  The thing is, she's completely oblivious to it, and everyone else is too afraid to confront her about it. Except, of course, for Kramer, whose total obliviousness and indifference of social norms just has him straight-up tell her "You stink" as soon as he sees her dance for the first time, and Jerry cannot force himself to disagree.
    Elaine: Jerry, do I stink?!
    Jerry: ...All right! You're beyond stink!
    Elaine: But I really enjoy dancing.
    Jerry: And that's not helping either.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "The Gang Buys a Boat" When Dee shows off her P. Diddy boat dance and Mac says she looks "like one of those inflatable dancing things at the used car lot." Although she dismisses his opinion at first, she later accepts it, but only after challenging an inflatable tube man to a dance-off and "learning some amazing moves."
  • Michael Scott, the delusional manager in the American version of The Office (US), is also completely unaware of how bizarre his dance moves are in second season episode "Booze Cruise," calling himself "the boss of dancing." Reactions range from embarrassment (Phyllis) to deadpan (Darryl) to dumbfounded amusement (Jim).
  • On Brooklyn Nine-Nine Amy is an absolutely terrible dancer and ignores anyone who tells her so. This gets a great twist when she gets into a fight at a club with her brother (who is literally better at most everything) and challenges him to a dance-off. Jake tries to warn her this is a bad idea...but to his shock, Amy's brother is actually worse at dancing than she is.
  • Good Omens (2019): According to God while angels (with one exception) don't dance, demons can but are universally terrible at it. Not that this stops them from trying anyway. At one point the audience sees a clip of Crowley, Hastur and Ligur attempting to dance during the 70's. It's even worse than you can imagine.

     Music 
  • LL Cool J's "You Can't Dance" is a Take That! at people who think they can dance, but instead make themselves look just plain silly.
  • Bobby Brown was often considered New Edition's worst dancer in their early days. Once he went solo, Bobby stepped up his game big time and became one of the hottest dancers of the New Jack Swing era. Johnny Gill, who joined New Edition in 1987, unfortunately took Bobby's place as the worst dancer of the group to this very day.
  • The Gregory Brothers song "DJ Play My Song (No, Leave Me Alone)" has the DJ criticize the singer's dancing.
  • "Dance Like an Idiot" by Lemon Demon is an affectionate ode to terrible, awkward dancers everywhere.
    Put your hands on your knees and hobble to the right
    Then do a three-sixty with your eyes shut tight
    While you're dizzy, get busy and pretend you're a mime
    Then make whiny noises and clap five times

    Hold out your arms, start running in place
    Try to do the moonwalk and fall on your face
    Get up and stomp around like a big fat lummox
    Then jump out the window with your hands on your buttocks!

     Professional Wrestling 

     Theatre 
  • My Two Left Feet is a play about a middle-aged accountant who decides that she wants to become a ballerina, and offers up her accounting expertise to a struggling ballet school in exchange for lessons. Naturally, while she is a brilliant accountant, she turns out to be a terrible dancer, and the point of the play is that she must accept that she can't dance but that she can still become involved in ballet by helping the school manage its debts.

     Video Games 
  • Commander Shepard, the protagonist of the original Mass Effect trilogy, is The Ace who is good at pretty much everything except dancing, which is gleefully brought up by other characters at every opportunity. It also somewhat of a Development Gag, since Shepard's dancing animations in the first game had been pretty low-quality, and the devs decided to keep it that way in the sequels just for laughs, despite throwing in some cool dancing moves for other characters, such as the Techno Turian in Mass Effect 2. Amusingly, Shepard is actually capable of busting out some good dance moves during Samara's loyalty mission, and if Femshep romances Garrus, he can actually pull her into an impressive tango in the Citadel DLC in the third game.
    • In the same vein, the Ryder siblings of Mass Effect: Andromeda are just as terrible at dancing as Shepard.
    • And they're not the only ones. Ryder's teammate Vetra can tango, but according to her, that's it. One incident from her past had Vetra pretending to be a table dancer on Omega, which ended badly. As in "three-day bar brawl kicking off when Vetra tripped over her own feet, landing on a volus and damaging his breathing apparatus" bad.
  • For its anniversary event, Overwatch released a series of dance emotes for the whole cast. Turns out everyone is a pretty good dancer...and then there's Soldier:76, whose awkward dad dance has to be seen to be believed.
  • The alternative choreography for Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" in Just Dance is intentionally bad. It stars a nerdy character who can't dance well, but they still have fun anyway.

     Web Comics 

     Western Animation 
  • Hilariously subverted in a Garfield and Friends TV special when Garfield's owner Jon heads out to the dance floor. Jon does a surprisingly epic dance... But unfortunately he's doing disco in the late-1980s and gets ridiculed by everybody else in the club.
    Jon: Boy, you learn a dance, and then zango! 14 years later they change it!
    Garfield: Go figure.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Twilight Sparkle shows off her very... interesting dance moves in "Sweet and Elite". It weirds out the other party guests. In musical numbers, she dances quite well, but it seems that in canon, she's a subpar dancer. She does the same dance moves (on all fours) in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, despite being in human form.
    • Also, if the ending of "A Canterlot Wedding, Part 2" is anything to go by, Twilight might have given some tips about the "modern" dancing to Princess Luna.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Smurfette's Dancing Shoes", Smurfette tries to prove that she's a natural at dancing, only to find herself falling to the ground a few times, making her fellow Smurfs laugh at her attempts.
  • We Bare Bears: In "Dance Lessons", Panda teams up with Lucy to enter a dance contest and win Lucy a new truck for her grocery business. Unfortunately, Lucy turns out to be a terrible dancer.
  • Popeye is set up by Bluto to be "the world's greatest samba dancer" in We're On Our Way to Rio as a means to embarrass him. That's because Popeye sucks at dancing and he knows it. But when he finds out Bluto was behind the set up, a quick can of spinach (17 points) makes him a samba whiz.

 
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Seinfeld

More like a full-body dry heave set to music.

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