There’s just something about dance movies — the mix of cheesiness, earnestness, and incredible athleticism that gets us every time. But there’s more to these fun rom-coms: They also have some pretty serious lessons. Here’s what we’ve learned over the years from our 10 favorite dance movies of all time.
Aside from the fact that we’re all six degrees from Kevin Bacon, Footloose also taught us that sometimes questioning authority is the right thing to do. A town without dancing? That’s just not right. Thankfully, Bacon’s rebellious Ren McCormack was able to win over the town elders and reinstate prom just in time to get the girl.
2. Saturday Night Fever
No one can pull off a leisure suit like young John Travolta, but that’s not the most important lesson of the 1977 film. Instead, we learned how important it is to be gracious and give credit where credit is due. Tony (Travolta’s character) didn’t have to give up his winning trophy, but he knew that the other team was truly better and it was the right, albeit more difficult, thing to do.
3. Bring It On
Yes, it’s technically about cheerleaders, but in their hearts the Rancho Carne Toros are dancers. In addition to learning that Big Red is a terrible nickname and that your best friend’s older brother is usually a dreamboat, the biggest lesson we took away from this movie was that following the old way of doing things doesn’t always work and you’re better off breaking the mold and going your own way. Also: spirit fingers!
4. Dirty Dancing
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” That’s definitely the most quoted lesson, but the most important one has to be that no matter the differences between two people on the surface, there can be great commonalities and even love. Plus, never underestimate the healing power of a dance party in the Catskills.
We definitely learned a few good fashion tips from Flashdance — hello, leg warmers! But the biggest takeaway is definitely self-reliance. Jennifer Beals’s character Alex has no one else to rely on, and when she does get offered a free pass, she turns it down, preferring to make her way on her own merit.
6. Center Stage
First lesson: Motorcycles make ballets 10 times better. But on the other hand, we also learned how important it is to decide what’s right for you as an individual. All the characters in this movie make choices that would be disastrous for any of their co-stars: Maureen decides to leave the ballet and go to college. Jody decides to be the principal dancer at a smaller company instead of being in the corps at the world-renowned one. And Eva decides that it’s time to let her talent shine over her attitude.
7. Save the Last Dance
Between the amazing club STEPPS and a young Kerry Washington, there’s a lot to learn from this movie, but the biggest life lesson we learned was definitely that with your friends and family, you can overcome even the most difficult obstacles to live up to your dreams.
8. Strictly Ballroom
There’s so much to keep up with in this movie — family drama, intrigue, the paso doble. But in the end, what you learn is that what really matters is putting your whole heart into your passion. You might not win all the awards, but you’ll find a much greater reward.
9. Step Up
Ballet and street dancing. What could be a more confusing combination? But like in Save the Last Dance, one of the key lessons from Step Up is that help and inspiration can come from the most unlikely places.
10. Top Hat
We’re going way back on this one. But how can you talk about dance movies without Fred and Ginger? The best lesson here — don’t jump to conclusions. Although, if you do, hilarity is likely to ensue.
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