Why 2000s dance movies like Step Up and Save the Last Dance had all of us in a chokehold

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Jul 8, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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When I was 12 years old, I thought that there was no one in the world who could ever love me like Channing Tatum could—or more specifically, Tyler Gage from Step Up. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that the dance films of the 2000s had a massive impact on my childhood. Classics like Honey, Save the Last Dance, and Take the Lead burnt a hole in my parents’ DVD player.

Despite being quite literally nine years old when Step Up 2: The Streets came out, I truly believed that one day Moose and I would marry and we’d recreate that iconic final dance scene in the rain for our wedding video—the fact that the movie has a measly 28 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes’ infamous Tomatometer is baffling to me.

Either way, these films left a mark on all of us, they shaped our adolescence and influenced our Spotify playlists. But the question is, why did 2000s dance movies have us all in such an uncoordinated and clumsy chokehold? Well, I have a theory.

Before we get started, I must admit that as I traced the timeline, I didn’t really use any math or physics because, to be honest, I was never any good at those subjects. Regardless of this tiny detail, I’ve managed to connect the dots and deduced that dance films gripped us all so intensely in the mid to late 2000s due to the stratospheric popularity of talent shows.

Think about it, is it a coincidence that at the same time we were all falling in love with George Sampson and Diversity from Britain’s Got Talent, we were also being charmed by the likes of Luke, the Santiago twins, and Camille in Step Up 3D? I think not.

Talent shows convinced us that with enough practice and patience, we could all become international stars. It was a time when people were falling in love with the idea of aspirational cinema, and when teenagers were choosing between fixating on being either a pop star or a professional dancer. These films had the perfect balance of unbelievability—I mean, how is it possible that Moose could even attempt to balance a full-time academic career in engineering at NYU and compete in one of the most intense dance battles in the US? While also being rooted just enough in reality so that it felt reachable.

We’ve definitely moved on from the glory days of competition-based TV. But what it’s left us with is a deep appreciation for the kinds of films that actually made us want to get up off the sofa and maybe chase a dream or two. And no, this paragraph has not been sponsored by the producers of So You Think You Can Dance.

I think for many of us, these films introduced us to different musical styles and genres that maybe we hadn’t previously been exposed to. I definitely know that for myself, there are so many staple songs now in my curated playlists that I took directly from these movies. Special shoutout to Take the Lead—Antonio Banderas you were robbed of an Oscar for that film sweetie, I’m so sorry.

On top of all of this, with some exceptions of course, nine times out of ten, these films were filled with actually decent dance sequences. In a number of them, a majority of the actors were also professional dancers in real life. We got to sit back and watch legitimately well-choreographed scenes, none of that TikTok malarkey, while enjoying the fact that at some point, a water pump might explode or a beach dance battle might break out.

All this to be said, the films of your childhood will always hold a special place in your heart. Gen Zers feed off of nostalgia, it’s one of our favourite things, so it makes sense that reminiscing on the good ol’ days would be a regular occurrence. Oh what I’d give to experience seeing Channing Tatum understand the beauty of dance for the first time again…

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