Dance Movie Cliches: Characters That Are Sure To Appear

September 3, 2014

Over the last ten years, dance movies have really taken off—this is hardly surprising given that Hollywood quickly realized they constituted a ‘safe’ genre which are cheap to produce and almost always turn a profit. A sad side-effect of this is that the genre is ridden with overused tropes—the same tired plot points, the exact same pacing, and the same one-dimensional cliched characters.

Oh, the characters; if you’re studying in a dance program, a fan of the genre or even writing a dance movie yourself, here’s five of the most cliched characters you’ll no doubt recognize from every dance movie ever made….

Privileged White Girl Dancer

Classically trained and deeply passionate about dance, the beautiful, athletic female lead has everything going for her… except that her middle-to-upper class background and overly protective parents (see below) have given her a rose-tinted view of the world.

Of course, her perfect world will be upturned and her values challenged as a series of (predictable) plot points have her questioning her beliefs. Enter the Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid…

Bonus points for:

– Dancing alone in a room, unaware of being watched

– Learning to appreciate hip-hop dancing

– Self-doubt

– Overcoming of self-doubt

Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid

He’s a disadvantaged street urchin from a broken home, constantly trying to do the right thing but always becoming entangled with the wrong crowd. He’s got a rap sheet of minor crimes but has a big heart and a love of dance (whether or not he realizes this at the start of the movie is optional). A chance encounter will see him meet Privileged White Girl Dancer, who’ll help him better himself and his circumstances with the gift of dance while he in turn shows Privileged White Girl Dancer how the real world works.

After culture differences are resolved through some minor conflict, Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid will hook up with Privileged White Girl Dancer in the third act.

Bonus points for:

– Having an alcoholic father

– Having a younger sibling for whom he wants to create a better life for

– Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid’s group of friends doesn’t understand what he sees in Privileged White Girl Dancer

Overbearing Parent

The guardian of Privileged White Girl Dancer, who doesn’t necessarily have to be blood related.

Overbearing Parent means well and wants Privileged White Girl Dancer to succeed academically, but would rather she gave up her dreams of being a dancer and focus on less creative pursuits. Tensions will be further heightened when Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid is introduced and appears to be having a bad influence on Privileged White Girl Dancer, and the stakes will be raised in the third act when Overbearing Parent presents her with some kind of ultimatum. Against their wishes, however, Privileged White Girl Dancer continues with her dancing but by doing so convinces Overbearing Parent that her decision to strike out on her own is a good one.

Bonus Points For:

– Threatening to move Privileged White Girl Dancer out of the area or to a different college

– Weeping apology after realizing they were being too overbearing, usually after changing their entire worldview during the course of a 3 minute dance routine


The Mercutio character is one of Tough But Sensitive Urban Kid’s placeholder friends. The only purpose he serves is to die at the end of the second act, forcing the other characters to reevaluate their lives and the recent choices they’ve made.

Bonus Points For:

– Having the only funny lines in the film

– Accidentally making an enemy in a rival gang, which ultimately leads to his demise

The Man

Be it a development company looking to close down the community recreational hall, a college professor who deems dance as an inferior topic of study or the dance management company who hold all the keys, every dance movie needs an evil corporation entity to rail against. Thankfully, the underdog always wins in the end through the power of dance. Naturally.

Bonus Points For:

– Literally having guys in black suits

– “We’ve got to save the dance hall!”