10) Let’s start with a sequence that shows the challenges of getting a job as a dancer. This is the audition sequence from Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” (1979), in which dozens upon dozens of hopefuls take to the stage of a Broadway theater to try to impress director/choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) and earn spots in his new musical. Fosse used many clever angles, but didn’t cut the action to match George Benson’s version of the Lieber/Stoller classic “On Broadway,” letting the winnowing process create its own rhythm…

 

9) Taylor Hackford’s “White Nights” (1985) was burdened by a ludicrous plot about a Soviet ballet star who had defected to the US and an American tap dancer who had defected to Russia. None of it made sense, but it was worth it to see two of their generation’s best dancers — Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines — perform together to the choreography of Twyla Tharp…

 

8) “Modern Times” (1936) was one of writer/director/star Charlie Chaplin’s greatest works, a mostly-silent movie that climaxed in audiences hearing the voice of his Little Tramp character for the first time on screen. In this scene from about halfway through, Charlie and Paulette Goddard are in a department store after closing and go exploring. They find roller skates in the toy department. While she struggles to get hers on, Charlie fits a pair over his shoes and begins skating around. The result is one his iconic sequences…

 

7) In the late 1970s, if you went to a party with people in the 18-34 demographic, it was likely that at some point this song would be played on the stereo and everyone in attendance would join in and jump to the left. Long after “The Hokey Pokey” and long before “The Macarena,” young Americans were following the steps and gyrations of “The Time Warp” from Jim Sharman’s 1975 cult favorite, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”…

 

6) Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made plenty of movies together, so I could have picked any number of dance scenes featuring the two of them. It was said that Rogers’ talent was underestimated because Astaire moved so brilliantly (and looked better in a tuxedo than any man before or since), but you had to remember that she was doing many of the same moves he did — but backwards and in high heels.¬†That’s why I chose this clip, from George Stevens’ “Swing Time” (1936), which shows the duo tapping side-by-side as well as dancing in a more traditional ballroom style…

 

5) Everything in this clip from John Badham’s “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) looks like a cliche now, but when it first hit the screen it created an enormous buzz that changed the way young Americans danced in discos — people saw the movie multiple times to memorize the moves. It also changed John Travolta from the breakout star of TV’s “Welcome Back, Kotter” into a bona fide movie mega-star. The Bee Gees songs on the multi-platinum-selling soundtrack didn’t hurt, either…

 

4) Here’s another sequence that grabbed me, made me sit up in my chair, and exclaim, “Wow!” It’s the opening of Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” (2016), with frustrated commuters on a Los Angeles freeway breaking out in a spontaneous, joyous dance number. Not only are the performances and choreography fantastic, but the color scheme and cinematography are eye-catching, too. It’s only after you’ve watched the whole movie that you realize that this scene has nothing to do with the actual plot…

 

3) You start with Leonard Bernstein’s music, then add Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, and top it off with Jerome Robbins’ choreography. The result is this scene from “West Side Story” (1961), with the Puerto Rican characters on a rooftop having a bit of a disagreement about whether life is better in America than it was back home. Led by Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, the cast elevates “America” to a number so iconic it has been copied thousands of times on stages around the world. Frankly, I don’t know why Steven Spielberg is even bothering with a remake (scheduled for release around Christmas 2020). By the way, the inherent exuberance in this scene doesn’t change the fact that, six decades later, the immigrant experience remains the same for many — whether or not they can dance and sing this well…

 

2) If forced to choose one number from Stanley Donen’s “Singin’ In the Rain” (1961), most people would probably pick Gene Kelly’s title number. Frankly, I’d put it third-best within the movie, behind “Good Morning” and this one — Donald O’Connor doing “Make ‘Em Laugh,” the greatest solo dance performance ever filmed. It’s full of slapstick, tricky timing, and a physicality unlike any others on this list, beginning with his leap from the stool to the top of the piano, all the way to his up-and-over-and-through finale. It’s also pretty damned funny…

 

And at the top of the list…

Here’s the kind of entertainment you’d be hard-pressed to find in a modern movie or TV show. It’s a scene from Andrew Stone’s “Stormy Weather” (1943). The movie starred Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, although neither of them are in this scene, which takes place in a nightclub where Cab Calloway is performing “Jumpin’ Jive” with his big band. At one point, he strolls over to a corner of the audience where the Nicholas Brothers (Harold and Fayard) pop up from their chairs and completely take over. What follows is what many — including no less an expert than Fred Astaire — consider the greatest dance routine ever captured on film. I concur.