The Rage Dance. While many wouldn’t like to admit it, these moments can be some of the most badass and emotional of all cinema. It’s the dance-centric flick’s version of the shootout, or the moment in romantic comedies where the hero realizes they need the girl back. Generally, the Rage Dance occurs during the Goddess moment, when moment in the film shifts. This isn’t always the case, but the best rage dances that carry the most weight usually occur at the end of act one or act two…natural turning points in a script.
There can be a lot of gray area in defining a proper rage dance, so let me break it down for you. A Rage Dance needs to occur after an emotionally stressful incident happens to our hero in a dance-centric film. Our hero then needs to work out her/his issues through her chosen art form. It also needs to break new ground in her dancing skills, annihilating whatever fear and hesitation was inevitably holding her back. It kills many birds with one stone, and is heavy on the metaphor (as dance usually is).
My sister and I have danced on and off throughout our lives, and we have a profound love for dance films. We’ve seen most of them, and usually enjoy them way too much, no matter how awful they are. I decided to honor our love by listing my top Rage Dances. I drew from my vast knowledge of these films, and tried to brush up on the ones I was less familiar with, but it’s hard to see everything out there. If you know of a good rage dance that I’ve missed, please tell me in the comments. And now…my top Rage Dances in a Motion Picture:
9) Save the Last Dance (2001, Thomas Carter): I think most of you remember this little flick, starring Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick Thomas, about young Sara (Stiles) whose mother dies tragically, causing her to quit dance. She transfers to a new school where smart, handsome, charismatic Derek helps her find her passion again (in many ways…) and allows her to broaden her dance spectrum. Sara’s Rage Dance occurs shortly after breaking up with Derek, as racial tensions and stereotypes cause a rift in their relationship. Sara honestly has the most pathetic Rage Dance on this list. It’s boring. There is no display of badass skill or a moment of catharsis. I included it, however, because the circumstance for the Rage Dance is textbook. If you’ve never seen Save the Last Dance and it looks appealing to you…just watch Step Up. It’s the same thing only a billion times better.
8) Center Stage (2000, Nicholas Hytner): This film focuses on young ambitious ballet dancers training in the American Ballet Academy, all vying for a key spot in the showcase of their lives. Jody (Amanda Schull) is your classic naïve dancer who sleeps with the rebel choreographer and then can’t seem to understand when he’s a total ass to her. Their conflict comes to a head during rehearsal, and Jody storms out. Luckily, she has a trusty (and gorgeous) friend who tells her to dance what she’s feeling. Jody walks back into that room and dances her part with a new-found energy and attitude in front of the man who used her and the ignored her. But compared to the other Rage Dances’s on this list, I find this one rather lacking in emotion. It missed a lot of opportunity.
7) Salsa (1988, Boaz Davidson): Most of you will have no idea what this movie is. Shortly after Dirty Dancing Havana Nights came out, I became incredibly obsessed with Latin dance of all kinds. One year for my birthday my parents thought it would be adorable to buy me as many obscure salsa and tango movies as possible (and they were right in thinking so). This gem was in the mix, and I’ve loved it for years! The movie is about a young, cocksure rising Salsa star named Rico (played by Draco Rosa, who went on to an incredibly successful song writing career, writing such hits as “Living La Vida Loca”, “She Bangs”, and one of the best songs ever…”The Thong Song”).
The vein womanizer throws away the people who love him for a shot at being the king of the dance floor, letting the manipulative cougar Luna lead him down a road of delusion. Besides having one of the best opens to a movie ever, the Rage Dance is particularly amazing (I use that term a bit sarcastically here). After Rico ditches his beautiful girlfriend for the vicious yet talented Luna, who owns the dance club they all frequent, he becomes her puppet of dance. Luna tries to force Rico into her particular style of dance, and if we know anything about Rico by now it’s that he can’t be contained. After a frustrating practice between the two, she berates him for his flashy moves and stomps off of the floor. Rico’s quick and succinct Rage Dance consists of him repeated the move Luna trashed over and over again in furious defiance. Rico is a character you love to hate.
6) Stomp the Yard (2007, Sylvain White): Surprisingly a really great movie, Stomp the Yard exists in a world where emotions and honor rule all actions. With that kind of equation you know a good Rage Dance has got to be in there somewhere. Shortly after the egotistical DJ (Columbus Short) and his crew one-up a dangerous dance crew in an underground battle, a violent fight breaks out, causing the death of DJ’s brother, Duron (Chris Brown, pre-shittiness reveal). Wracked with the guilt of causing his brother’s death, DJ goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Georgia to attend college, where he rooms with the charismatic Rich (Ne-Yo). While there, DJ sees the frats’ tradition of “stomping the yard,” and raises it an “underground hip-hop dance battle,” all while desperately trying to get in the pants of April (Meagan Good). The film itself shows great character and plot depth, beautiful cinematography, impressive choreography, and a soundtrack that at times actually reminds me more of Explosions in the Sky a la Friday Night Lights than a hip-hop dance movie.
The Rage Dance to take note of here is actually in a different place as most conventional Rage Dances. It occurs at the end of the movie during the pivotal tie breaker at the National Step Competition. The resolution to almost every storyline is loaded up into this one dance between DJ and his nemesis. I think we can all guess what happens — DJ destroys everyone, wins the girl, honors his uncle and the memory of his brother, as well grows immensely as a character. And all this from an emotionally charged dance.
Check back in for the conclusion of the Top 9 Rage Dances (part 2) next week and see if you can guess the winner. I bet you can’t.