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10 most memorable big-screen dance scenes

  • Renée Zellweger brings down the jailhouse in "Chicago"
  • John Travolta went from sitcom star to big-screen sensation in "Saturday Night Fever"
  • The off-the-shoulder style worn by actress Jennifer Beals in "Flashdance" is still popular
  • Dance
  • Movies

This summer, as "Grease" returns to theaters in sing-a-long form (it's being billed as "the original high school musical"), and the surprisingly unstoppable "Step Up" series releases its third installment (in 3-D, no less), it's clear: Films that feature dance are bigger than ever.

Accordingly, we've compiled a list of some of the best dance scenes ever shown on-screen.


Pollyanna-ish Sandy needn't have bothered with her bad-girl makeover: She'd already won Danny's heart. But we love the way Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta's tight, black, "greaser" duds contrast with their super-sunny singing and dancing in this 1978 musical's fun finale. See all the memorable dance scenes

Funny Face

In the 1957 musical, Audrey Hepburn played an amateur philosopher turned reluctant fashion model (opposite dance legend Fred Astaire). The beatnik black ensemble she wore for a scene in which she broke out into a Bohemian-style routine is still chic; the sequence was repurposed by Gap in a 2006 ad for "skinny black pants."

Step Up

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan worked as professional dancers prior to being cast in this 2006 sleeper hit; their expert moves (and, as seen here, ultra-realistic rehearsal gear) were a big reason for the film's unexpected success. (Their obvious chemistry -- they started dating as soon filming wrapped and married last summer -- didn't hurt either.) See SYTYCD host Cat Deeley's exclusive style diary


In 2002, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere starred in this Hollywood version of the popular musical. The film's critical and commercial success paved the way for subsequent stage-to-screen adaptations like Rent, Phantom of the Opera, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, and even Mamma Mia. (And didn't Renée look divine as 1920's-era murderess/aspiring showgirl Roxie Hart?) Renée Zellweger's transformation


This 1983 movie about an eighteen-year-old steel worker/aspiring dancer was responsible for the slashing of a million sweatshirts; the insouciant off-the-shoulder style worn by actress Jennifer Beals is still popular. (The scene in which she douses herself, mid-dance, with a bucketful of water, is just as difficult to forget.)

Saturday Night Fever

John Travolta went from sitcom star to big-screen sensation after this movie's 1977 release. His white three-piece suit and impossibly smooth moves combined with a best-selling soundtrack by the Bee Gees made disco more popular than ever. 21 most iconic swimsuits ever

Center Stage

Starring a mix of little-known young actors -- like future Avatar star Zoe Saldana--and professional ballet dancers, this 2000 film followed students at a fictional New York City dance school. There was a run on red toe shoes after star Amanda Schull donned them for the high-energy workshop scene (in which she twirled to a pop soundtrack of Michael Jackson and Jamiroquai).


A much-delayed remake is scheduled to debut in 2011, but we're not sure it's possible to improve on the 1984 original -- we particularly like the scene in which small-town transplant Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) dances his troubles away in an empty warehouse. The setting, along with his super-basic sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers, set off his transcendent steps.

West Side Story

A New York City-set update of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the 1961 film is beset by tragedy in the second half. But Rita Moreno's spirited, twirling defense of "America" is -- much like the hot-house colors of the ladies' dresses -- nothing short of exuberant. Stars' most memorable dresses

Dirty Dancing

The rolled-up jean shorts that Jennifer Grey wore throughout this 1963-set flick proved almost as popular in 1987 as the film itself. And who didn't love the final scene, in which Baby and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) "dirty" danced to (and even lip-synced along with) the then-contemporary song "I've Had the Time of My Life"?

See if your favorites made our list in our expanded gallery at

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