My little boy has been going to dance classes for the last year and a half. It’s mostly ballet, with a bit of this and that thrown in (tap, rhythmic gymnastics), quite laid back, low pressure, lots of giggles. The whole time he has been the only boy in the class, and I find that bewildering. Because he started when he was three, and three-year-olds dance. They dance because they hear some music playing, or because they feel happy, or want to make you laugh. Sometimes he dances because it’s morning and there is a day coming. And yet somehow it is standard for parents who see that in little girls to make the connection with dance classes, yet not for the parents of little boys to do the same.
Whenever I have mentioned to someone that my boy is doing dancing they have been positive about the idea, but very often have said something along the lines of, “it’s great for boys to learn movement, it will be really useful if he wants to do soccer or something later on”. To which I generally reply, “yes, or also if he wants to DANCE”. Honestly, do these people think Hugh Jackman sprang fully formed from the head of Terpsichore? If we want the next generation of leading men to be ready, they need to be learning their stuff now. Not that I expect my child to be one of them, necessarily; I’m just agitating for boys learning to dance to be commonplace. I will go further: I’m on a crusade to make the expectation that a man can dance the default. I am also struck by the bizarre impulse to find a euphemism: you don’t need to call it “movement”, my betesticled offspring will not be diminished by the word “dancing”, nor even the word (gasp) “ballet”.
It can be hard for us to remember that the men we see playing action heroes in the movies did not in fact seek careers as spies or soldiers, they chose to become actors. Which means they probably did dance training. So in the spirit of reminding ourselves of this happy fact, I have assembled here a few clips of some of my favourite Leading Men Who Are Dancers.
Patrick Swayze is now in the position to be made the patron saint of leading men who dance, so I will begin with him. Here he is dancing with his wife, Lisa Nieme, at the World Music Awards in 1994.
I expect it will surprise no one that Antonio Banderas can dance. Here he tangos in a clip from the movie Take the Lead.
Adrian Lester is thought of as an a-list leading man more in theatrical, and specifically Shakespearean, circles than in film. In Kenneth Branagh’s song-and-dance version of Love’s Labours Lost he spends most of his time keeping a lid on it, so as not to show up the other actors. However, in this number he gets approximately one-and-a-half minutes to show what he can do. Feel free to fast forward through the first three chumps (sorry, Ken).
I had never heard of Sam Rockwell when someone [ETA: it was tigtog, silly me! In this post.] posted this clip of his screen test for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but he obviously needs a vehicle for those feet (ahem).
Although most people found out about Christopher Walken when he danced for the music video of Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice”, he actually came from a hoofing family of working vaudeville actors, so was one of the type who learned to tap before he could walk. Here is a routine he did for the American version of Dennis Potter’s surreal Pennies from Heaven.
In Emma Thompson’s book about making Sense and Sensibility she mentioned reminiscing with Alan Rickman about performing on stage, in their youth, in the musical Me and My Girl, and being grateful they no longer had to tap dance for a living. I assume from this that Alan can dance when he has to, but I can only find this teeny bit of footage from the somewhat obscure movie The Search for John Gissing. I want to see Alan tap!
When Hugh Jackman first hosted the Oscars and broke out the moves you could hear the surprised noises from the audience who, if they had thought about it, should have remembered that he got his first break as a song and dance man in a British National Theatre production of Oklahoma! Here he is hosting the Tony awards and explaining how it makes producers nervous when action heroes dance, and a bonus compilation someone put together which includes some clips from The Boy From Oz.
Sadly there is no publicly available footage at this time of Aidan Turner dancing (he was a dancer before he decided acting would be more interesting, and I’m convinced you can see it in the way he carries himself). I hope that sometime soon a director will find him a role in which he can show off his full range of skills. Better still, I would like to see a project that brings all these men together, and then lets them dance.