Ten Unforgettable Dance Moments on Film

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Paris is Burning (1990)

We're celebrating International Day of Dance with our favourite dance moments, from Issey Miyake’s S/S95 show to the original (and unforgettable) Prancercise

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche – and the German philosopher would surely have been a great supporter of the International Day of Dance, which celebrates the medium enthusiastically and in all its forms. In celebration, we’ve curated a list of ten of our very favourite moving moments, from an eccentric 1980s exercise video to Rei Kawakubo’s pioneering collaboration with the one and only Merce Cunningham. 

1. Issey Miyake Spring/Summer 1995

Issey Miyake’s Spring/Summer 1995 show, though perhaps not technically dance in its truest form, is a joyous celebration of fashion and movement. At the time when it took place, the Japanese designer was fast becoming renowned for his technologically ground breaking designs incorporating pleats, having launched Pleats Please Issey Miyake in 1993, and as such the S/S95 show became a prime opportunity to highlight his pleating prowess. Wearing pleated, hooped ‘Minaret’ dresses in varying shades of orange and green, that could be folded completely flat yet form a striking silhouette when worn, a handful of models gathered on the runway and began bobbing up and down, causing the dresses to bounce softly around them.

2. Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 comedy classic Strictly Ballroom is all about breaking the rules when it comes to dance. The mockumentary film follows Australian professional ballroom dancer Scott Hastings as he grapples with his desire to experiment with ballroom dancing – and his decision to do so ruffles both literal and metaphorical feathers in the lead up to the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix. Featuring heavily embellished outfits, and fake tan aplenty, Luhrmann’s film is brilliantly camp in its showcasing of incredible dancing, and the unwavering passion every character has for it.

3. Prancercise

Dance as a form of exercise has enjoyed plenty of time in the spotlight over recent decades. But one element that is vastly underrated when it comes to dancing to stay fit is the above video, Prancercise, a.k.a. five minutes of innovation in dance fitness created by Joanna Rohrback. All you need is a statement necklace, camel toe-inducing leggings and a go-getter’s enthusiasm. Because honestly, why jog when you can prance?

4. MOVEment: Alexander McQueen x Marie-Agnès Gillot

In 2015 AnOther Magazine launched MOVEment, a collaborative programme of seven films featuring costumes designed by some of the world’s leading fashion designers and choreography from the most exciting talents of dance. One of the films boasted costuming by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen, a darkly billowing piece worn by the mesmeric Marie-Agnès Gillot as she dances to the music of These New Puritans.

5. Take Me to Church by Hozier

Ukrainian dancer Sergei Polunin is known as ‘the bad boy of ballet’. His story is fascinating: two years after becoming the youngest ever principal at the British Royal Ballet at the age of 20 he resigned unexpectedly. He has gone on to dance with companies in Russia, but tales of walking out days before opening night and performing while on drugs have followed him throughout his career. Dancing in the David LaChapelle-directed music video for Hozier’s chart-topping Take Me to Church propelled Polunin further into the public eye, and for good reason – it makes for unbelievably compelling viewing.

6. Flashdance (1983)

This is a clip that barely needs explanation: Alex Owens – welder by day, dancer by night – is performing an already impressive routine in Mawby’s Bar when she pulls on a chain that opens the heavens, water splashing all over her and the chair she perches on. Iconic.

7. Re:Rosas by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker

When Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker sent a call to arms asking her fans to film themselves dancing her 1983 piece Rosas Danst Rosas (following a series of events which saw Beyoncé accused of plagiarising the moves, and De Keersmaeker stating that children had performed the dance to greater effect than the Texan songstress), she perhaps didn’t expect people across the world to submit over ten hours of footage. The resulting compilation video sees people of all ages and in all settings performing the dance, and it is a total delight to watch.

8. Paris is Burning (1990)

Last year marked a quarter of a century since the historic release of Paris is Burning, the documentary directed by Jennie Livingston which captured the drag ball scene in late 1980s Harlem, placing queer identity as played out in marginalised and often impoverished New York communities under the spotlight for all to see. It’s joyous and at times difficult watch, and its presentation of voguing during the ball scenes, performed by house legends such as Willi Ninja, have been heavily referenced in the years since it first showed. If you haven’t already seen it, we strongly suggest you watch the documentary in full (it’s available on YouTube), or jump ahead to the 29-minute mark for an induction into New York ballroom culture.

9. Scenario: Rei Kawakubo x Merce Cunningham

Rei Kawakubo and Merce Cunningham's unforgettable collaboration for Scenario might be one of the greatest collisions of fashion and dance to date. Wearing pieces from Comme des Garçons’ Spring/Summer 1997 collection, entitled Dress Meets Body, Body Meets Dress, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company danced in Scenario, a performance that marked one of the most unforgettable moments in their respective careers. The bulbous costumes transform the dancers’ bodies so that they become their own props, moving with a glorious (if slightly bizarre) bounce through the duration of the piece. 

10. Lucky Star by Madonna

As one of her earliest singles taken from her debut album, Lucky Star will forever be an important Madonna moment. Its accompanying music video is a joy to watch for myriad reasons, not least due to the stark white background that allows the viewer to hone in on Madonna’s all black outfit, featuring netted top, fingerless gloves and silver detailing, and the dance moves which are, dare we say it, fantastically easy to replicate. This is dancefloor inspiration that will never age.