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The Dance Scene

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 24, 2018

Just like the table scene, the dance scene can be an invaluable story telling tool: a way to showcase where your characters stand without having to force them to speak about it or have someone else infodump about it.

This stance can be on the characters that dance (i.e. how they feel about each other) or how the dancers are feeling about the place they are dancing in, or those they are dancing around (or an audience of sorts watching them). It can also be telling of how those watching the dancers feel about them. If build up properly to have the right context, the dance scene will be able to convey to the audience of the film, book or webcomic a vast array of information, from social class issues to personality issues to character dynamics.

But how is this accomplished? I talked about building the Dance Scene up:

The setting where the dance takes place is very important. Wether impromptu or preset, casual or formal, leisurly or competitive, the setting for the dance is what will act as the frame within which we will be able to understand the nuances of the behavior of the dancers and those watching them.

One way to build up such a scene would be from the perspective of the dancers- how do they feel about dancing in the place they will be doing it? Are they excited, embarrassed, afraid, defiant, coy or reluctant and for what reason? The reason for any of those emotions will give us the feel of the Dance Scene's stakes, and where the characters stand.

If they are excited to dance and be the center of attention at a town gala or main gathering then they are confident, and their social standing is such that gives them this confidence… OR their own history, or achievements or some other element is what does it despite what would be a more expectable reaction.

If they go to dance defying the rules (the dance scene in Gone with the Wind where Scarlet dances in all black widow's clothes, which was strictly forbidden, without a care in the world is textbook) of their society, then that's a huge element of their character's alignment, personality and pattern; if their Dance Scene is not interrupted by the (disapproving) spectators, then that is an indication of their assertiveness and ability to impose their own will upon a group of people.

And all of that through dance rather than talking!

The Dance Scene can also be a manifestation of the contrast and belligerence between the dancers, or a sign of playful/flirtatious contrast.

Consider it also a way to show your character's background or how he/she impacts people in general without having to sacrifice plot or invest in too much exposition to do so, like in this scene where we're thoroughly convinced the Archangel Michael is a hit with the ladies: Michael's Dance Scene.

All of it hinges on choreographing not only the dance moves, but the entire scene (angles, layout, frame composition) to display exactly what you want.

A Dance Scene can even be a full blown actual fight, full of suspense and with stakes as high as death! Look at this Greek Pontian knife dance- it's of course stylized here, but imagine it in context of a story of two fighters who decide that the dancing might be their opportunity to settle their differences, and unbeknownst to the spectators, they dance this dance not as depicted in this clip but actually intending for one of them to never walk away from it. How riveting can this be?

I haven't yet used a dance scene, but I will in the foreseeable future :) How about you?



KimLuster at 5:41PM, Feb. 25, 2018

Nice insight into the dance scene! I have one coming up in the Good Walker - kinda wish I'd read this blurb first ":D

GuyWithChainsaw at 7:20AM, Feb. 24, 2018

Devilman no uta meme intensifies.

usedbooks at 6:47AM, Feb. 24, 2018

Curses! Your newspost got me reading my own archives again! I've lost nearly 20 minutes already. :(

usedbooks at 6:31AM, Feb. 24, 2018

The Adams Family had the best dance. I didn't think I had done a dance scene in Used Books, but then I remembered the masquerade ball. Heh. I used it to give a central/public role to a fugitive and make use of the no-speaking interaction.

bravo1102 at 2:05AM, Feb. 24, 2018

I've written a few dance scenes in SOK and Ragnar's recent sword play with the bandit fits with this too. Seems to me a lot of this could be applied to a fencing scene or any scene with ritualized movement not just the dance. Think about the knife fight in West Side Story. That's easily the best example of a dance fight I know. There were a couple of other dance and fight scenes in other films with Russ Tambyn which were very acrobatic. A few early Burt Lancaster films also featured dances that mirror later fights with plenty of acrobatic dance moves.

ozoneocean at 12:03AM, Feb. 24, 2018

Love those Greek ninjas ^_^ A GREAT movie for emotions and story told through dance scenes was Vengo. I recommend it highly! In Pinky TA I sould of have this sort of thing, with the lead up to a dance that never really happens...

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