The Hottest Dancers in Hollywood
This hub is for Countrywomen, who asked me for suggestions about the best dance movies and hottest stars in Hollywood in exchange for advice about the Five Best Bollywood Movies for People Who've Never Seen a Bollywood Movie.
The golden age of the Hollywood musical is long gone, and most of its stars are dead, but the nice thing about film is that their talent and beauty have been preserved forever for our enjoyment.
Arguably the most famous of the era's great wizards of song and dance were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Now from a physical perspective, I have to say that Fred is merely pleasant. A guy who can sing like that and dance like that, however... hell, yeah, he's hot! And the lovely Ginger, of course, famously did everything Fred did... backwards and in high heels!
Gene Kelly was more classically handsome than Fred, and just as extraordinary a dancer. A lot of people are unaware that his famous Singin' in the Rain sequence was filmed when he was ill with a cold and a temperature of 103. When I watched the movie for the first time in my teens, I was also surprised by how funny it was. If you haven't seen it, run, don't walk, to your nearest video store to rent it!
Singin' in the Rain
Although I loved "Singin' in the Rain," I was not a big fan of the Broadway Melody sequence, which was kind of pointless and weird, in my opinion. However, it introduced me to another of classic Hollywood's most extraordinary dancers: the gorgeous Cyd Charisse. Fred Astaire called her "beautiful dynamite" and she was. Classically trained as a ballerina, she made a splash in films such as Singin' in the Rain, Silk Stockings, The Band Wagon, Meet Me in Las Vegas, and Brigadoon.
Check out her killer legs in this famous scene from The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire.
The Band Wagon Clip
Rock and Roll
With the golden age of Hollywood musicals fading, rock and roll picked up the slack. Elvis Presley, who was hot stuff in his younger days, made a number of movies, including Jailhouse Rock, which featured his song of the same name:
There were also a number of rock and roll musicals, of which the most famous is probably Grease, featuring young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
You're the One That I Want
"Slinky Hips" Travolta was also more or less single handedly responsible for the popularity of disco thanks to his role in Saturday Night Fever.
The 80's produced a whole slew of classic dance movies, including Flashdance and Footloose, though the only really enduring star (arguably) was Patrick Swayze. Here he is with Jennifer Grey in the greatest 80's dance movie of them all: Dirty Dancing.
Dirty Dancing Final Dance
Swayze had a cameo in the 2004 not-sequel, Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights,a mediocre film made enjoyable by the chemistry and charisma of its two young stars, Mexican hottie Diego Luna and English beauty Romola Garai. Oh yeah, the dancing's pretty good, too!
Dirty Dancing 2 Trailer
Antonio Banderas is another modern actor who's got moves as well as looks. After his dreams of international football (soccer) stardom were ended by a foot injury in his teens, Banderas turned to acting. A talented ballroom dancer, he has danced in several roles on film, including a tango with Madonna in Evita, a sizzling paso doble with Catherine Zeta Jones (about whom more in a minute) in The Mask of Zorro, and a number of dances in his 2006 dance movie, Take the Lead.
My favorite is his sexy tango with Lithuanian dance star Katya Virshilas.
Take the Lead Tango
Take the Lead was based loosely (very loosely) on the life of ballroom instructor Pierre Dulaine, who founded the New York Dancing Classrooms project featured in the charming documentary Mad Hot Ballroom.
Mad Hot Ballroom Trailer
Take the Lead isn't the only Hollywood film to showcase ballroom dancing in recent years. Australian director Baz Luhrmann is also a fan. Though Baz's visual style and tendency towards camp can be difficult for some to stomach, his dance scenes are fantastic.
Here's the beautiful final paso doble from his 1992 film Strictly Ballroom, featuring Paul Mercurio and Tara Maurice.
Strictly Ballroom Final Dance
Baz's 2003 film Moulin Rouge! also featured some surprisingly good singing and dancing by stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, though my favorite of its many dance scenes, El Tango de Roxanne, has fairly minimal roles for both. Instead, Jacek Koman and Caroline O'Connor take center stage as the unconscious Argentinian and Nini Legs in the Air.
(This is the dance version, not the version as it appears in the film.)
El Tango de Roxanne
I also enjoyed the charming Japanese film Shall We Dance? about an uptight businessman who finds passion and life in ballroom dancing, and its less charming but still enjoyable Hollywood remake, with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez.
Shall We Dance? trailer (American)
And with Richard Gere, we come back to Catherine Zeta Jones. (I said we would.) Though Zeta Jones is best known for her classic Hollywood beauty and style, she got her start as a world class tap dancer, and her training shows. Her breakout role in Hollywood, Elena in The Mask of Zorro, paired her with Antonio Banderas in a passionate paso doble, and she also showed off her skills in America's Sweethearts. But the single best showcase (so far) of her great dancing skills was 2002's Chicago, with Gere and Renee Zellweger.
All That Jazz
Cell Block Tango
I Can't Do It Alone
The ballet scene has also contributed some enjoyable dance stars. Legendary Russian danseur Mikhail Baryshnikov and American actor/dancer Gregory Hines starred in dance classic White Nights in the 80's, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, another legend, while in recent years Ethan Steifel, a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet appeared in the fairly dreadful Center Stage, which nevertheless had some great dance scenes in a variety of styles.
Center Stage Trailer
Stiefel's costar in Center Stage, Amanda Schull, also appeared with Chinese dancer Chi Cao in Mao's Last Dancer, a biopic of Li Cunxin, a legendary Chinese danseur who defected from China in the early 1980s, nearly causing an international incident when he was held hostage in the Chinese Embassy.
Mao's Last Dancer
Julia Stiles took a crash course in both ballet and hip-hop to star in Save the Last Dance and did pretty well, while Jamie Bell became a breakout child star in the charming Billy Elliott, about a boy from a Northern English mining town who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.
Save the Last Dance Trailer
Billy Elliott Trailer
Dance Movies I Want To Watch
I've seen a lot of dance movies, but nowhere near all. These are two that are particularly high on my To Watch list:
Stomp the Yard
Well, there you go. I hope you enjoyed this little excursion into Hollywood's greatest dance hits and stars!
PS - If anyone wants to point me in the direction of a movie with some really good swing dancing, I'd be delighted. I couldn't think of a single one, but there's gotta be some.
Meanwhile, enjoy these talented folks from the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown 2006 - Liberation Division.
Edit: Thanks to commenter Mandi Gould, check out the amazing Lindy Hoppers in Hellzapoppin'!