One of cinema’s most attractive and unique qualities is its ability to capture movement in ways other art forms cannot. This advantage has led to the development of numerous motion-based movie types such as action, sports, and, of course, dance.
Dance was one of the earliest subjects of film. William K.L. Dickson – credited with inventing the motion picture camera while working for Thomas Edison – chose a dancing woman for the subject of his 1894 film “Carmencita.” Dance movies have since evolved into a full-fledged genre. In these movies, dance often acts as the primary catalyst for narrative events or, at the very least, adds some fun and excitement for audiences.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, dance films benefited immensely from Hollywood’s exodus from the silent era into the world of sound. Beloved dance films, including “Top Hat,” “Swing Time,” and “Shall We Dance,” were all released in the 1930s and have sustained dedicated fan bases to this day.
This is not to say that these older films are superior to more recent offerings. The 2010 ballet-themed horror flick “Black Swan” – while a much darker affair than the previously mentioned movies – has extremely high reviews online, including 85% approval among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. “Pina,” a 2011 documentary focusing on the late German choreographer Pina Bausch, was also extremely well received – it currently has a 95% freshness rating – although it not as widely known.
Whether or not a dance film is successful oftentimes seems to depend on the talent on screen. Legendary dancers, including Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers, all appear in more than one of the best dance movies of all time.