When I was younger, I used to fantasize that my life was a musical (sometimes I still do). You know, like I’d be walking into the post office with a package of weird socks and stickers to send to my BFF Lola, who lives across the country, and suddenly, all the other miserable people waiting in a hellish long line would start moonwalking and launch into a harmonic chorus of Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Sadly, I’m probably the only person at the grocery store who thinks it would be a cool idea to tap-dance in the middle of the Doritos aisle (which I’m not above doing when nature calls).
Things are different in the movies, where anything can happen at any given time—and that totally includes a perfectly choreographed yet also somehow totally out of nowhere two-step. We can expect this sort of thing from certain kinds of movies: musicals, of course, and movies about dance like Step Up, Fame and You Got Served. There are other kinds of movies, though, where a synchronized dance number can catch you completely off guard and make you feel like the puzzled-face emoji.
Personally, I LOVE these sorts of off-the-cuff dance scenes, even though there is a part of me that wonders, How in the eff could all these muthas know how to dance in sync like this?! I can understand a sudden Macarena, some out-of-the-blue voguing, a spontaneous Electric Slide, or any other unplanned rendition of a historically popular dance routine that your aunties might break out into on the dance floor at your family’s wedding, but these scenes are next-level!
The cinematic synchronized dance is an underappreciated gem, so I’m here to educate you…and to prepare you in case you ever come face-to-face with a group of people spontaneously shaking their booties. (If that ever does happen, I do hope you join in.)
She’s All That (1999)
In this ’90s teen movie, Freddie Prinze Jr. plays high-school heartthrob Zack, whose prom invitation to artsy nerd Laney Boggs (Rachel Leigh Cook) is part of a secret bet with his best friend that any girl he takes will be crowned queen. NOT COOL, DUDE. At the dance, the school’s resident pop-n-lockin’ DJ, played by none other than Usher, leads the students in a choreographed sashay to Fatboy Slim’s “Rockafeller Skank.” As far as cinema classics go, this unforgettable scene—truly, one of the most magical in the history of synchronized dance—is right next the one where Laney finds out about the scam and screams, “Am I a bet? Am I a fucking bet?” at Zack.
Boys and Girls (2000)
Freddie Prinze Jr. is caught in yet ANOTHER perfectly-planned-but-not-at-all-planned dance number in this movie about two longtime friends who are possibly becoming MORE than friends. This time, he’s more reluctant to put on his dancing shoes—he protests, “THIS IS CRAZY!” at his date as he’s dragged onto the dance floor (we know, Freddie, we know), but he ends up enjoying himself until (SPOILER ALERT) he gets sprayed with soap suds shooting out of a foam dispenser. Have you ever been to one of those foam parties? I went just once, and literally my only memory is of my flip-flops sticking to the foam-soaked floor, prohibiting me from showing off my dance skills. How sad for everyone there.
Good Burger (1997)
My fave All That–skit-turned-full-length-movie included its very own unexpected dance scene. In order to escape a mental hospital to which they were wrongly committed (clearly, this film came out before these screenwriters understood that that might be totally offensive to some people), two burger-joint-worker BFFs (Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell) choreograph a dance to Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” that distracts everyone and allows them to bust loose. This movie teaches us that any time you and your friends are in a sticky situation, you all can just start dancing to get out of it! I’d advise your gang to spend the next few weeks planning some precautionary choreography.
Encino Man (1992)
Here, we meet a lovable caveman (Brendan Fraser) who is released from prehistoric ice after an L.A. earthquake. His two new buddies, Dave (Sean Astin) and Stoney (Pauly Shore), show him the ropes of living in modern times, which includes “weezin’ the juice,” aka drinking straight from the spout of an ICEE dispenser, and, even better…synchronized dancing! Their special routine is performed to the song “Walk the Dinosaur,” which might not be a totally accurate choice in terms of prehistoric livin’, but I find it a pretty perfect pick anyway.
13 Going on 30 (2004)
Jennifer Garner is Jenna Rink, a woman who magically does a time-traveling body switch with her 13-year-old self. While attending a stuffy ADULT PARTY, Jenna gets the DJ to help liven things up by playing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Then she leads everyone in one of the most famous dance routines in history! If you don’t know them already, make “learning the moves to ‘Thriller’” one of your life’s primary goals—maybe, like Jenna, it’ll help you save the day in the future…all through the power of a spontaneous synchronized dance! ♦