No dance film can ever top The Red Shoes, the lush 1948 Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger film about a young ballerina torn between love of her art, an ambitious composer and the impresario who runs the ballet company. It is essentially a double telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes, a tale about a young woman who puts on the titular pieces of footwear and finds herself forced to dance until she dies. The film stops dead halfway through to present a 17-minute long ballet sequence that mixes virtuoso dancing (by star Moira Shearer, a ballerina before she was an actress but great at both) with fantastical camera work, as in the segment in which she dances with a man who turns into a corporeal newspaper. The second part of this unforgettable scene is excerpted above.
Top 10 Movie Dance Scenes
Dance involves movement across space and time—something that the cinema does very well. TIME presents the most memorable dance scenes in film history.
The Ballet Scene in The Red Shoes
- A Wet, Soft Shoe in Singin’ in the Rain
- The Ballet Scene in The Red Shoes
- The Twist in Pulp Fiction
- Fred and Ginger in Top Hat
- ‘No One Puts Baby in the Corner’ in Dirty Dancing
- On the Floor in Saturday Night Fever
- ‘Jet Song’ in West Side Story
- The Madison in Band of Outsiders
- The Prison Dance in Jailhouse Rock
- ‘The Dance of the Hours’ in Fantasia