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You Said You Couldn't Dance

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Giselle: You said you couldn't dance!
Robert: I said, "I don't dance." I didn't say, "I couldn't."

Two characters have known each other for a while. The music starts and the man takes the woman by the hand, leads her to the dance floor, and proceeds to dance expertly. Stunned, she says, "You told me you couldn't dance!"

Some typical responses are:

  1. "No, I told you I didn't like to dance."
  2. "I didn't know I could!", or "I can't!", when he has gained some new ability via Applied Phlebotinum.
  3. "I told you I couldn't jitterbug. I can waltz just fine," or some variant.
  4. "No, you just assumed I couldn't dance." Related to You Didn't Ask.
  5. "That was years ago; I took classes since then."
  6. "I Lied."

Of course, this doesn't have to refer to just dancing — any kind of skill could be shown this way. Contrast with Informed Ability and the polar opposite: I Can't Dance. Compare Unaccustomed as I Am to Public Speaking... for a character who claims to have no skill with words before delivering the speech of a lifetime.

See also Dancing Royalty.


Anime & Manga

  • In Snow White with the Red Hair the no longer practicing knight Sir Lata Forzeno claims he's managed to avoid balls for so long he's forgotten how to dance. Shirayuki discovers that he hasn't, nor has he forgotten how to make a girl step on his foot while making it look like she misstepped during the dance so that he can excuse himself from the event and escape to treat his "injury".
  • In one plot arc of the second season of Duel Masters, Shobu and Rekuta are surprised to find that the daughter of the nearby civilization's gatekeeper doesn't like the card game. As events proceed, it is revealed that despite her feelings, she is incredibly good at it. Her disgust stemmed from the fact that her even-more-skilled father taught her how to play, and he was her only opponent; despite her talent, she had lost every match she had ever played.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! R had Reiko Kitamori, who is very shy and expresses how she doesn't enjoy playing Duel Monsters. Despite this, she is one of the most powerful duelists in existence.

Comic Books

  • This is a recurring thing for Jughead in Archie Comics; Jug is the epitome of Brilliant, but Lazy, so he tends to avoid any form of exertion. However, when a decent meal is on the line, Jughead displays Hidden Depths that leave most people (typically antagonists) stunned.


  • In 1776, after Ben Franklin dances with Thomas Jefferson's wife during "He Plays the Violin", they end up in front of John Adams. An awkward pause, a stiff bow, and then...
    "Why, John, you can dance!"
    "We still do a few things in Boston, Franklin."
  • In the 1998 film Dance With Me, Ruby is at first frustrated at Rafael's inability to do the fancy dance steps that she studies. Later, when she's dancing with him casually at a party, he does the step he tripped up on earlier and reveals that he can dance quite well, but he just goes with the music and doesn't know the names of the steps.
  • Enchanted
    Giselle: You said you couldn't dance!
    Robert: I said I didn't. I never said I couldn't.
  • From Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), the titular Mr and Mrs do a tango.
    "You said you couldn't dance."
    "All part of the cover, babe."
  • A non-dancing example features in Quigley Down Under, regarding Quigley's apparent disdain for pistols: "I just said I never had much use for one. I didn't say I didn't know how to use it."
  • In Netflix's Shaft (2019), JJ repeatedly voices his disdain for guns, but turns out to be highly skilled in their use.
    JJ: I said I didn't like guns. I didn't say I couldn't shoot.


  • The Dresden Files: In Death Masks, Harry sweeps Susan off her feet as a means to get away from some Mooks. She says, "You told me you couldn't dance," but it turns out Harry moonlighted early in his career as a dance partner for a senior citizen organization. He can't do rock-and-roll-type dancing, but ballroom is another matter.
    Harry: Tough to tango with someone with lumbago. It requires great skill.
  • Along with the many, many other things he doesn't do, Rudy Miller, the hero of Gordon Korman's I Want to Go Home doesn't dance. And as with everything else, he's very, very good at it. He just doesn't do it.

Live-Action TV

  • In The Big Bang Theory the girls take Sheldon to a dance and goad him to go on the dance floor, assuming that he'll be a terrible dancer because of how awkward he usually is. Much to their astonishment, Sheldon turns out to be an excellent dancer, thanks to all the cotillion classes he was forced to take as a kid back in Texas.
  • Cheers: In "From Beer to Eternity", Woody is set up to be a bowling ace, but freezes when he tries to help the gang win a match against Gary's Old Towne Tavern. Diane (who has been making fun of bowling the whole time) steps in and wins it for them. She took bowling as a college PE class but despises the game.
  • In the third season of Chuck, the upgraded Intersect provides several of these moments.
    Casey: "I didn't know he could play flamenco guitar." Or something like that.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Doctor Dances", Rose is surprised to learn that the Doctor can dance, he is slightly offended that she just assumed that he couldn't dance. Before he can show her, though, they are interrupted. But they get to dance at the end with Captain Jack watching. It also crosses over with I Can't Dance because the Doctor appears to initially be somewhat rusty. In the Doctor Who Confidential it was said that "dancing" meant something else.
    Rose: Doesn't the universe implode or something if you... dance?
  • In Forever (2014), Morgan and Martinez visit a murder suspect when he's about to deliver a speech. He says he hates public speaking and then goes and delivers a well-received speech, afterwards telling a surprised Morgan and Martinez "I said I hate public speaking; I never said I wasn't any good at it."
  • In Leverage, Eliot Does Not Like Guns, and mentions it often. Other characters seem to assume he can't use them, but when backed into a corner he uses them to take out a warehouse full of armed bad guys.
    Chapman: [while holding him at gunpoint] You said you didn't like guns.
    Eliot: I don't. [raises gun and kills Chapman] Never said I couldn't use them.
  • The Lucy Show: A non-dancing variation is done. At the beginning of "Lucy and the Pool Hustler", Lucy and Mr. Moody visit a ladies' pool hall. She tells him that she doesn't like the pool, and he proposes a friendly game, with a small wager. Lucy lags for break, perfectly.
    Mr. Moody: I thought you couldn't play pool?
    Lucy: I said I didn't like it; that doesn't mean I'm not any good at it!
  • Firefly: Variant; Mal, as a rough frontier type, was intended to be a terrible dancer for the episode at a formal ball. However, in practicing for the scene, Nathan Fillion got good enough that he could no longer convincingly portray a bad dancer. So they just added a line "I think this dance I actually know" and let him dance competently.
  • A variant in The Hollowmen: Nick turns out to be knowledgeable in Australian history, but the reveals are in the reverse order.
    Nick: I said I studied Australian history. I never said I was interested in it.
  • In Ugly Betty, this trope is named word-for-word when Daniel is trying to one-up Sofia's boyfriend Hunter, who claims he can't dance but is actually much better than Daniel. He meant he can't dance well enough to be a professional ballroom dancer.
  • Gilmore Girls:
    • Luke and Lorelai at his sister's wedding plays the trope almost word-for-word.
      Lorelai: Um, you said before you don't dance.
      Luke: Well, I'm a compulsive liar.
    • The trope is used for reading for Rory and Jess (naturally) in his introductory episode. He comments on her wall-to-wall bookshelves, dismissively, and when she asks if he reads, he tells her "not much." Later, he catches up with her to give her a book. It's one of hers, which he stole and annotated.
      Rory: You've read this before.
      Jess: About forty times.
      Rory: I thought you said you didn't read much.
      Jess: Well, what is much?

Video Games

  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: If Sol dances with Symbiosis on their 17th birthday party, they expect him to be terrible at it, but he surprises them with his fluid dance skills.


  • In Ears for Elves, this and I Can't Dance are played with:
    • Tanna protests that she doesn't dance when Luero tries (and succeeds) to drag her into the dancing at the Taur√ęcuiva Festival, but she's actually rather good...
      Tanna: Dance!? I don't dance!
      Luero: I believe you mean you won't dance. And you're about to be proven wrong.
      Tanna: Okay fine, it's not that I can't dance — I mean of course I learned how. I just haven't danced in a while.
    • ... unlike Luero, even though he told her to follow his lead. A few minutes after her reluctant entry to the dance floor:
      Tanna: Oh gods! You're terrible!!

Web Original

  • During a discussion on the Usenet forum rec.arts.dc.comics about how to reinvent Hawk and Dove, someone proposed a version of Dove who would efficiently take down the villains and then explain "I said I didn't like violence. I never said I was bad at it."

Western Animation

  • It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown had Charlie Brown do the dance, after kissing the Little Red-Haired Girl, the rest of the evening is a blur. Linus tells him the next day that he danced with all the girls and was the life of the party, even though Charlie Brown didn't know how to dance before that.