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Bust a Move

10 Awesome Dance Aerobics Scenes from ’80s Movies

Catch Footloose during IFC's '80s Weekend July 29-31st.

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Photo Credit: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

Anyone who grew up in the 1980s remembers Jane Fonda’s workout videos, which featured the Academy Award-winning actress in leotards and leg-warmers leading viewers through a series of aerobic exercises. Coupled with films like Flashdance and Footloose, the Jane Fonda Workout helped usher in a rad aerobics and dance craze that lasted throughout the decade and influenced everything from fashion to music to film. To celebrate IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we decided to share a few of our favorite dance and aerobics scenes from ’80s films. Throw on your favorite leg-warmers and get ready to break a sweat!

1. Flashdance

Paramount Pictures and PolyGram
Paramount Pictures and PolyGram

Has there ever been a better film about a welder-by-day-dancer-by-night? Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) dreams of being a serious dancer at the Pittsburg Dance & Repertory Company, but alas, she has no formal training beyond her frenzied aerobics sessions set to “Maniac” and her job dancing at Mawby’s Bar. Though Flashdance features quite a few seriously impressive dance numbers (“Manhunt” comes to mind thanks to Cynthia Rhodes’ acrobatics and insane amount of body glitter), the best is still Alex’s iconic audition set to Irene Cara’s hit song “Flashdance…What a Feeling” complete with leaps, flips, break dancing (!), and some seriously big hair.


2. Fame

MGM and United Artists

These days, Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton cause traffic jams daily on Broadway, but back in 1980, the only performers stopping traffic were the fictional students at the New York High School of Performing Arts. When aspiring composer Bruno refuses to play his music publicly, his taxi driver father blasts it out to everyone on 46th St from the speakers of his cab, causing the leotard-clad students to wildly leap on top of cars and dance throughout the street. Well, that’s ONE way to get people to “remember your name.”


3. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo

The Cannon Group and TriStar Pictures
The Cannon Group and TriStar Pictures

Possibly the most unnecessary of all unnecessary sequels and the inspiration for an enduring pop culture cliché, Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo may be short on plot and character development, but if you’re watching it for those things, you’re doing it wrong. It’s the dancing and extremely dated hip hop outfits (okay and an appearance by rapper-turned-Law & Order: SVU detective Ice-T) that matter, and in these areas, Breakin’ 2 really delivers.

Whether it’s a gang dance fight with nunchucks (!), popping and locking on the ceiling, or donning berets and harem pants for a celebratory final routine, Breakin’ 2 is actually a pretty solid (dare we say…ELECTRIC?) dance flick in the vein of an overly-long episode of So You Think You Can Dance that is actually supposed to be about saving a community center from bulldozers


4. Perfect

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Before there was Tinder, apparently aerobics classes were the way people hooked up in the ’80s, at least according to the plot of the totally inane, guilty pleasure Perfect. While in town working on a story about drug dealers, Rolling Stone journalist Adam (John Travolta) begins investigating the singles’ scene at the L.A. gym where Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is an aerobics instructor. A lot of manic jumping, hip gyrations, and sweaty pelvic thrusts later, is it any wonder Adam and Jessie wind up finding romance? Also, the workout actually ain’t bad either. High-cut leotard is totally optional.


5. White Nights

Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

If you can look past the implausibility of Gregory Hines’ character willingly defecting to Soviet Russia for tap dancing jobs, White Nights is actually a great dance-thriller, which is a seriously underutilized film genre in our opinion. And because this is the ’80s, the best way for Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s character to distract their Soviet captors is obviously by performing a smooth jazz/karate-inspired dance choreographed by Twyla Tharp. Though ballet superstar Baryshnikov and tap legend Hines couldn’t be more different apart, together they make a pretty dynamic duo. The song may be called “Prove Me Wrong,” but this is one pairing that feels oh-so-right.


6. Footloose

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Yeah, everyone FINALLY “cuts loose” at the end of this classic flick about a town where dancing is banned, but we’re partial to Ren’s angry meltdown in an empty warehouse. When just driving to the middle of nowhere in your yellow VW bug, smoking a cigarette, and drinking don’t calm your adolescent angst, why not just put on a cassette tape and run, swing, jump, kick, and flip your way through a dangerous abandoned warehouse instead? It’s a bit like watching a manic Olympic gymnastics routine, but it’s hard not to love Kevin Bacon giving it his all. (Click here to see all airings of Footloose on IFC.)


7. Dirty Dancing

Lionsgate

Pretty much everyone had the time of their lives watching Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) dance and romance in the Catskills all through the summer of ’63. In the grand ’80s movie tradition of dancing for your rights (see also: Footloose), Johnny makes a big entrance at the end-of-summer show as a protest for being unfairly fired, pulling Baby firmly out of the corner and onto the floor for a sexy ballroom number complete with that iconic over-the-head lift. The dancing may be “dirty,” but really, it’s just good, clean fun.


8. Girls Just Want to Have Fun

New World Pictures
New World Pictures

Before she was kicking up her heels as Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker was just a Catholic school girl named Janey with a dream of dancing on TV in Chicago. In yet another ’80s movie about dads not being cool with their daughters dancing (ahem, see also Footloose, Dirty Dancing), Janey’s conservative military father forbids her from competing with her dreamy partner Jeff (Lee Montgomery) for a spot on Dance TV. The two compete anyway with a seriously athletic routine full of tumbling, lifts, and spins while Janey’s dad watches backstage and comes to his senses about the whole thing. If only we could say the same thing about everyone’s hilariously bad ’80s outfits.


9. Risky Business

Warner Bros
Warner Bros.

Who hasn’t gotten a little too drunk and danced around their living room in just their underwear? High school senior Joel does just that (and much, MUCH more) during a parent-free weekend at home. With a single iconic slide in socks, tighty-whiteys, a button-down, and Ray-Bans to the opening strains of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” Tom Cruise instantly became a full-fledged movie star and inspired frat boy Halloween costumes for years to come. If the whole “risky business” brothel idea doesn’t work out, maybe Joel has a future in show business instead.


10. Heavenly Bodies

This “dancercize” cult classic was co-produced by Playboy, which explains a lot about the overabundance of exercise and sex scenes and the wooden dialogue. However, the choreography and soundtrack are totally killer, as is lead actress/dancer Cynthia Dale who effortlessly high kicks and jumps her way through every routine. Heavenly Bodies may technically be a B-movie, but its dancers and dance numbers are pretty A-worthy.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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via GIPHY

Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.