Wednesday, August 26, 2015

LIST: Top 40 Dance Videos (Part Three)

Inching ever-closer to the top spot....

20. Paula Abdul - Straight Up
Have you ever seen the full video of this? Because I thought I had, but then I watched it for this, and.... PAULA TAP DANCES. A CAPELLA. WTF. She also lands a triple pirouette with no help from editing tricks. Figures, since David Fincher directed this chiaroscuro beauty. This video is also proof that a good teacher (Paula) doesn't teach her students (Janet Jackson) everything she knows (if you didn't know, Paula choreographed all of Janet's early videos, and was even in the video for "What Have You Done For Me Lately", which features the most amazing shoulder-ography from Ms. Jackson).

19. Janet Jackson - The Pleasure Principle
Proof positive that almost right from the very start, Janet could play on big brother Michael's level as an all-around performer/entertainer. Her early stuff with Ms. Abdul is cute and even innovative, but this ups the ante something fierce: A solo routine in a not-quite-abandoned warehouse, using props including her own jacket, a mic stand, and a chair. Look at her eyes: She is in complete control, and she is going to show you just what she can do. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

18. Missy Elliott - Gossip Folks
Everyone remembers when Missy said she would put her thing down, flip it, and reverse it... AND THEN DID, but hardly anybody remembers when she was so overcome that she actually started rapping in gibberish. I LOVE "Gossip Folks", easily one of the most enjoyable "BRING IT, HATERS!" songs ever. This is also the most Missy had ever danced in a video before. That gang of schoolboys and girls dancing down the hallway is as sickening as the beat of the song, and she and her go-to choreographer Hi-Hat had the good sense to bring back the best thing about the video for "Work It": the young girl dancers, led by phenom Alyson Stoner.

17. Mya - Case of the Ex
Mya may be one of the most underrated artists of the late-90s/early-00s. Not only does her music hold up shockingly well, but her videos are killer: There's the incredible tap routine in "My Love Is Like... Wo", and there's also this here. A desert battle of the sexes that just drips with sexual tension. I love this choreography SO MUCH. I wish I had choreographed it.

16. Daft Punk - Around the World
Directed by Michel Gondry and choreographed by Blanca Li, this is one of the most hypnotic videos ever made. Five groups of dancers dance around a platform designed like a vinyl record, each in a different costume, dancing in a different style, and dancing to a different line of the music. It's not perfect (the dancers aren't exactly in sync), but somehow that adds to the video's strange charm. I can't decide if my favorite is the skeletons or the mummies. Gondry is my hero for this quote: "I was sick to see choreography being mistreated in videos like filler with fast cutting and fast editing, really shallow. I don't think choreography should be shot in close-ups." SO MUCH YES.

15. Alanis Morissette - So Pure
Another song that no one remembers, probably because this is such a happier Alanis than we're used to seeing. She's right up there with Fiona Apple as a singer you'd never expect to see dancing in a music video, but she does quite well for herself in this self-directed(!) video, the first ever by a major artist to debut on the internet. What's even more impressive about her directing the video is that it's designed to look largely like one seamless scene, even as she and her partner (then-boyfriend Dash Mihok) go through time periods and dance styles. Pretty ballsy for your first time out! Standard ballroom, salsa, swing, tap, contemporary, freestyle... that's a huge range, and Alanis acquits herself amazingly well as both performer and director.

14. Jennifer Lopez - I'm Glad
Or, as I like to call it, the "Gus van Sant's Psycho" of music videos. This flawless homage to Flashdance begs the question: Why, in the midst of the 80s-remake craze, hasn't someone remade Flashdance with J. Lo in the Jennifer Beals part? This shows she's perfect for it, and frankly, we need to see her dance more. Actually, why the world's foremost crossover artist hasn't yet been in a movie musical is mind-boggling to me.

13. Paula Abdul - Cold Hearted
First, there's the scaffolding - I LOVE levels in a dance routine, and Paula uses them perfectly. Secondly, there's the homage to Bob Fosse's All That Jazz, one of the greatest movie musicals ever made. Third, there's Paula's dominatrix-y outfit. Lastly, there's all the fabulous duet choreography. It doesn't play as scandalous as she probably wanted (maybe it was at the time?), and David Fincher gilds the lily a bit with all those reaction shots from the executives, but this is still one KILLER routine. "Very nice," indeed.

12. The XX - Islands
A perfect example of using dance on film in a way that simply can't be done in real life. One eight-second clip repeated, ad nauseum, for the entire length of the song. But after a few run-throughs, little changes start to creep in, and by halfway through, everything is completely different from where we started as a story begins to emerge. It's almost hard to believe no one came up with this concept before, but maybe it needed this song to happen. Stunning, innovative, and stylish.

11. Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation
I know, I know. This is one of the greatest videos ever made, and it's way too low. And I could try to defend its "low" placement in any number of ways, but they would all sound way too critical of a video, and choreography, and performance, that I really love. There is so much here that is great. It's just that sometimes I wish the choreography moved a bit more through space. But it's a near-perfect clip, and perfectly in tune with the industrial sound and militant-yet-uplifting message of the song. Choreography Anthony Thomas created some stunning moves and pictures, and it's all danced with precision you won't find anywhere in the world outside of a Rockettes kick-line. It's still, all these years later, totally thrilling and one-of-a-kind.


  1. Missy getting so much love is pefect. At work now, so I can't watch The XX video now, but that sounds really fascinating. A little worried, though. Haven't spotted MJ, yet. An all-Michael top 10, maybe?

    1. The XX video was something I stumbled across while looking up dance-centric clips of the past few years, and I was completely floored by it. I think I watched it for half an hour straight. Really, really incredible. I'd love to know what you think when you get a chance to watch.

      There will be a note about Michael in tomorrow's post, but all I'll say for now is that I think Janet is a better dancer than her brother.

    2. Finally got to see The XX vid. That was pretty interesting. Not as high on it as you, but I do like it. Thanks for discovering it for us.

    3. Yeah it's a bit "concept-y" and difficult, but it's so interesting and different, and I just love how it's not something that you could do in any medium other than film.