Dancing Is Serious Business

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Girl: I'm rich and you're poor, but let's dance together!
Guy: Society won't like it.

Girl: (grabbing him dramatically) I don't care!
Parody of this trope from Family Guy

Some media works feature people dancing. This makes a whole lot of sense when the scene is set in a nightclub, a prom, or even a concert. Other times, however, there is an elaborate plot going on upon which the story is concentrating, and there's no time for frivolity because serious business is afoot. And yet dancing has been shoved in there somewhere, even when it feels (or at least should feel) out of place.

Very common in music videos and in films that are about dancing.

May feature an Angry Dance.

Examples of Dancing Is Serious Business include:



  • In the middle of Footloose, Ren McCormick invades a train-yard just so he can work his dancing Angst out. And impress the girl, apparently.
    • Parodied on Flight of the Conchords with "Bret's Angry Dance." When the band breaks up, the only way to vent his frustrations is by dancing masculinely in a warehouse. Unlike Bacon, Bret McKenzie is a trained dancer, so he did the heavy lifting and heavier dancing himself.
  • In Dirty Dancing, much more is riding on Baby learning to dance than Johnny not being able to do a dance exhibition at another resort and thus suffering professional embarrassment.
  • C Me Dance is about a girl whose faith in God is apparently dependent on her ability to dance. When she can't dance due to some rare blood disease, she loses faith. Her father prays that she returns to Christianity and regains the strength to fulfill her dream of dancing. God apparently not only obliges by making her better, He makes her gift of dance so great that people who see her dance apparently have religious epiphanies and convert to Christianity instantly! Satan, upset by her ability to bring people to God that easily, then aims all his evil energy at preventing her from dancing. It should be noted that this film is not a parody or a comedy; they were trying to be serious. Quite clearly, Dancing Is Serious Business.
  • Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to this trope by having everyone treat a professional dancing competition with the same level of seriousness most people reserve for wars, deaths in the family, and epidemics.
  • In Saturday Night Fever, Tony Manero (played by John Travolta) basically pins his entire future on winning a dance contest.
    • Similarly, Flashdance has Alex (played by Jennifer Beals) pining her own entire future on her audition for the Pittsburgh Conservatory.
  • There was a rash of these in the '00s: Take the Lead and the Disney Channel movie Gotta Kick It Up! were Save Our Students stories; You Got Served, the Step Up movies and Save the Last Dance all involved gang violence wherein somebody got shot; Stomp the Yard (which also started with a murder) and How She Move had pulling-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-and-the-magic-of-dance plots. In 2009 The Wayans brothers made a parody movie for MTV called Dance Flick.
    • At least in the case of Take The Lead, it was Based on a True Story (though the real-life Pierre Dulaine wishes he looked like Antonio Banderas. And the real kids were in many cases younger (see Mad Hot Ballroom for the real program.)
  • Billy Elliot qualifies as this at the point where the striking miner father almost becomes a scab for the money to send Billy to ballet school so the kid can have a better chance at life.
  • They Shoot Horses Dont They? is a Deconstruction based on actual exploitative dance contests during the Great Depression.
  • The Documentary, Pina, is about the late choreographer, Pina Bausch, and her dancers speak about her in awe as an artist the way a sculptor would speak about Michelangelo as they perform the dances she developed.

Music Videos

  • Michael Jackson was the king of this trope. You might think a Zombie Apocalypse horror movie might be the wrong time to suddenly break out into dance, but somehow he made it work in Thriller . In Beat It, he actually puts a stop to a gang-war through the power of dance. Think that's enough? The film for Smooth Criminal boasted fantastic cinematography that accentuated the dancing to the max.
  • The video for Katy Perry's Hot & Cold features a bride who is left at the altar. She, and some other spurned brides, arm themselves with baseball bats, corner him... and then break into dance.
    • He didn't really leave her at the altar, just hesitated.
  • Pat Benatar's Love Is A Battlefield. Pat and the other taxi-dancers force the sleezy pimp-like Guido who runs the dance hall to back off through the power of dance. Or something...
  • The video for Sophie Ellis Bextor's Murder On The Dance-Floor involves a dancing contest with an unscrupulously competitive contestant.
  • The video for Helena by My Chemical Romance begins with mourners filling a church for a funeral and then dancing around the coffin. At the bridge, they all bow their heads in prayer and the corpse gets up and does a ballet dance through the center aisle.
  • The video for Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin features a dance marathon. It lasts over 47 days before couple 55 loses. And then they jump off the pier.[


  • Pretty much every musical that isn't a comedy is made of this trope.
    • West Side Story is a notable example. The gang-rumble at the center of the show is basically a dance-off with knives.
      • With the difference that they aren't "actually" dancing, but, rather, fighting (just like how, in, say, "Tonight", they aren't actually singing, but talking). A better example from the same show would be the "Dance at the Gym" (MAMBO!).
      • The question really comes down to where the line falls between well-choreographed but very stylized fight scene and a dance scene that is choreographed to look look like a stylized fight.

Tabletop RPG

  • Forgotten Realms has the spelldancers, who use dance-based magic rituals. In the 2nd Edition AD&D version, they are variant wizards unable to use Invocation/Evocation or Necromancy spells, but who are not bound by the Vancian rules that control all other magic in D&D. (This means such characters aren't much use in a dungeon crawl, but otherwise tend to be overpowered). In 3rd Edition, any spellcaster (arcane or divine) can become one, and they only use the dance to amplify the spells they can cast normally.
  • Warhammer Fantasy battles have Woodelf Wardancers.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has Eldar Harlequins that use acrobatic dances amplified by mystical technology. They use this during wars as well.

Video Games

  • Ghost Trick: When trouble strikes (such as a prisonwide blackout), prison guard Bailey is compelled to do the Panic Dance as passed down in his family for generations. Why? Because someone has to.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and its American counterpart Elite Beat Agents. In EBA, only dancing can cure a sick athelete and stop an alien invasion.
  • Space Channel 5, where the entire solar system is powered by dance.

Truth in Television

  • Many cultures' ritual dances were this because they were, well, ritual dances. To make a mistake was to show disrespect, incur the wrath of The Powers That Be, etc.
    • This is why, for example, novice hula dancers were secluded until they learned the moves correctly and could perform the ritual dances perfectly.
    • In a modern version, the New Zealand national rugby team performs a Maori haka dance before each of their games. Don't tell them that they look silly.
      • Also, because it looks as intimidating as hell.
  • Male animals (such as certain birds) that use a mating dance to woo a female. She's judging the way he dances; if he does it right, she will allow him to mate with her. But if she doesn't like what she sees (for whatever reason), she will judge him as unsuitable.

Western Animation

  • Happy Feet pegs the survival of every Emperor Penguin on Earth on the penguin's ability to impress humans with their tap-dancing skills.
  • South Park parodied this in "You got F'd in the A!"


  • Spokane area radio personalities C. Foster Kane and Jim Arnold (the "Radio Men") often reduce summaries of upcoming movies to the conflict being resolved via a "secret underground dance competition".