Film, OldVenue

Decades of Film: Dance Movies of the 1980s

When one thinks of the 80s, dance films undoubtedly come to mind. With their catchy songs and uplifting dance routines it’s hard not to enjoy them. Flashdance (1983) was one of the first made during this decade. It depicts the life of Alex, played by Jennifer Beales, who works as a welder at a steel mill in Pittsburgh. Her night job as a dancer at the local bar shows her ambition to become a professional ballet dancer. Alex’s colleagues have similar artistic dreams, aspiring to be something more than their working-class jobs allow. After many tries Alex auditions for the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Dance, combining the many aspects of dance she has struggled to learn; including breakdancing that she has seen performed on the streets.
This film is not simply a feel-good romance. It was also the first movie to present dance scenes in the style of music videos, influencing many more films to adopt the same style. It also caused the iconic 80s leg warmer fashion craze. The soundtracks are what make 80s dance films so memorable, and Flashdance is no exception. The title song ‘Flashdance…What a Feeling’ was sang by Irene Cara, the singer of the famous title song for Fame, another 80s dance classic. However, many critics have said that Flashdance contains ‘style and no substance,’ with the dance scenes causing its extreme success rather than its plot.

The same can’t be said of Footloose (1984), which has a rich, developed plot as well as memorable dance scenes. It tells the story of teenager Ren McCormack, played by Kevin Bacon, who moves to a small town which has banned rock music and dancing. He therefore makes it his mission to get rid of the controlling ‘no dancing’ law, falling for the vicar’s rebellious daughter in the process. It was actually loosely based on real events, which makes this musical drama possess more depth than most. Like Flashdance, it has an extremely famous soundtrack including the title song ‘Footloose’ and ‘Holding out for a Hero.’

This is just a small example of the dance movies that prevailed in the 1980s, with Fame (1980) and Dirty Dancing (1987) being other classics within this genre. Despite the cheesiness and sometimes shallow plot lines, all of these dance movies have a single message in common: that anyone can achieve their goals if they are passionate enough. This is what makes them so enjoyable and still popular today. Although many modern remakes have been made, you just can’t beat the dazzling brilliance of the 80s!


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May 2022
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