Welcome to my second installment of my Top 9 Rage Dances in a Motion Picture! If you missed the first half, be sure to catch up here.
And now, with no further adieu, the top of the top!
5) West Side Story (1961, Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise): Now, I normally wouldn’t include something from such a traditional musical, because the lines get blurred a little with the large amount of expressive dancing featured in most. But in the 1961 film version of West Side Story there’s a musical number (“Cool” for those of you who are unfamiliar) that takes place in a large car garage after the chaos of the rumble under the highway that results in the deaths of Riff and Bernardo. The young teen members of the Jets are scared, furious, emotional, confused, shocked, vengeful…you name it. The premise if the song is to lay low, keep it cool while the cops are investigating, relax. But the dance number visually demonstrates what a difficult task that will be for the Jets. Why this could be complicated is that, unlike all the others on my list, it takes place in a world where song and dance are representing emotion. The dancing and singing isn’t literally happening, if that makes sense. All the previous Rage Dances are supposed to be the actual act of dancing out your problems. The best way to describe it is if you were to walk in on Kevin Bacon doing his rage dance, you’d say, “Holy crap! Why are you dancing?” where as in West Side Story (if it were real life), you’d say, “Why are you guys freaking out and yelling about things?” This is the only reason “Cool” isn’t number one on my list. But despite it not fitting in perfectly, I think it is one of the best choreographed Rage Dances ever filmed. God I have such a big crush on Ice.
4) Step Up (2006, Anne Fletcher): In the film that propelled Channing Tatum to stardom, it’s actually not him that delivers the Rage, but his wife-to-be Jenna Dewan. A privileged rich girl attending an arts high school takes a risk on a talented boy working out his community service as a janitor when her dance partner gets some really lame injury and bitches out. After catching a glimpse of his skills, she decides to enlist the hip-hop savvy Tyler as her partner. Through their collaboration he teaches her how to loosen up, and she teaches him what it’s like to work hard and accomplish something he’s proud of. Sparks fly, classical dance technique seamlessly blends with street hip-hop, and all seems on track for a happy ending…until Nora’s dance partner magically recovers and is back to reclaim his place in her performance. Tyler stomps out furious, feeling abandoned and under-appreciated, and Nora just has to dance out her frustrations. What makes this an effective Rage Dance is that Nora has many frustrations: her mom doesn’t understand her passion, her dad did but is now dead, her ex-boyfriend proved himself to be a despicable individual to not only her but also to his best friend, and she just hurt the man she’s grown to love. She lets loose in a room full of mirrors, and girl can dance! It’s a bit sad that Channing got most of the buzz after this film, because his wife is incredibly talented. Another interesting thing to note is that this Rage Dance is intercut with the controversial shooting of another character, prompting a simultaneous change in both Nora and Tyler.
3) Magic Mike (2012, Steven Soderbergh): People who bash Magic Mike without seeing it are some of the most annoying people I know. Listen, something that contains a Rage Dance this fiery is not to be messed with, regardless of how many near-naked men there are doing it. Channing Tatum’s honed skills as a dancer are massively impressive, which is why he has two movies on this list. He’s lost nothing since Step Up. Not only does he do an adorable hip-hop-styled striptease to Ginuwine’s “Pony,” but he also delivers one of the most fist-pumping Rage Dances I’ve ever seen. Shortly after the slimy Dallas (Matthew McCaunaghy) attempts to push Mike (Tatum) down to a place of metaphorical (and kind of literal) servitude, Mike decides to lay down a massive F*** You in the form of a new, intense routine that is less focused on making a buck and more so on his actual skills, showing Dallas that an old dog has a million new tricks, and to not take it lightly.
2) Footloose (1984, Herbert Ross): We all knew this one was coming. The Rage Dance performed by Kevin Bacon’s Ren is iconic. If it weren’t for Footloose, I wouldn’t be writing this giant act of procrastination. Regardless, this is a fabulously choreographed dance that visually depicts Ren’s frustrations with living in a place so different from what he knows as home, and struggling with the close-minded and judgmental people surrounding him. Even the very act of dancing would get him in serious trouble, which gives his personal catharsis even more meaning. I don’t really think I need to go into much detail here, as this scene is so well known that it was spoofed by both the Flight of the Conchords on their TV show and Andy Samberg in Hot Rod, and probably many more. PS – the new Footloose has a pretty decent Rage Dance as well ;)
1) Billy Elliot (2000, Stephen Daldry): This is one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s raw look at a blue collar family in Northern England during the mid-1980s is powerful and inspiring. Young Billy (Jamie Bell) finds that he has not only an interest, but a talent for ballet. Raised in a family of coal miners, this is obviously not an acceptable activity for him to be engaging in. The first Rage Dance of the film occurs after Billy’s ballet instructor Sandra confronts his dad Jackie and his fire-cracker brother Tony about Billy’s talent. A massive fight explodes between all the rough personalities, and Billy runs off to Rage Dance one of the most wonderfully choreographed pieces ever, set to The Jam’s “Town Called Malice,” which is only one of the many fabulous musical choices for the soundtrack. Seriously, it’s so good. I think what is most impressive is the fact that Bell is so young and kicking so much dance ass.
This first Rage Dance also serves as a montage, showing the change of seasons and passing of time as Billy dances his way around his rundown row-home community. The second Rage Dance will bring you to tears, and if it doesn’t then you have no soul. After Jackie catches Billy goofing off and teaching his friend ballet moves, there is a moment where Billy looks into his enraged father’s eyes and starts to dance his heart out. He dances with anger and determination and pride. He shows his dad what he is truly capable of, and his dad promptly runs to Sandra’s house and asks her to help them get Billy into the Royal Ballet. It’s the turning point of the movie, emotionally and plot-wise. If you’ve never seen Billy Elliot, first I’d like to silently judge you, second I’d like to beg you to get your hands on it this weekend. Also pick up a box of tissues and your favorite Ben & Jerry’s. You’re welcome.
And there they are, my Top Rage Dances in a Motion Picture. Please let me know if I missed one! But remember, just because it’s a movie about dancing doesn’t mean it has a Rage Dance. Movies that surprisingly don’t have rage dances include Honey, Black Swan and Flash Dance, so remember the classifications I stated in Part One when trying to determine if a routine is a Rage Dance or not. And Happy Raging!