I learned to dance largely from watching music videos and copying what I saw. That was often an exercise in frustration because the standard format for a music video has a cut about once a second, making it impossible to follow the movements. Even videos with impressive dance numbers cut away regularly to show how pretty or earnest the singers are and the angles keep cutting off their feet.
How can I learn your dance moves if I can’t see your feet?
What I really want are Singing in the Rain style song and dance routines. I want one choreographed dance that runs the whole length of the video with the whole body of the performers visible. No extended closeups of their faces, no cuts away to the singer belting out the bridge on a windy beach, and I want to see their damned feet.
I’ve been collecting videos like this now for a while. They are few and far between, and I present them to you here for your viewing enjoyment.
1. Weapon Of Choice by Fatboy Slim
This was probably the first official music video like this I ever saw. It features the glorious Christopher Walken dancing up a storm in a hotel. It’s directed by Spike Jonze, also responsible for this acid trip of a perfume commercial.
2. Thought of You by Ryan Woodward
The song is “World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies but this rotoscope style animation by Ryan Woodward takes a beautifully choreographed contemporary dance routine and makes it unbearably gorgeous. I have spent hours watching this on repeat.
3. Ed Sheeran – Thinking out Loud
This is the most recent video like this that I know of. It’s gorgeous, is one of the few full ballroom routines out there, and does something I haven’t seen in other videos: it shows the difference between a beginner and expert dancer. Ed Sheeran is doing fine going through the motions, but when compared his professional dance partner, Brittany Cherry, he looks like a block of wood. It’s great to see the difference shown so clearly. For anyone learning to dance, it’s a perfect illustration of the importance of posture, extension, footwork, and intention in movement.
4. Sia – Elastic Heart
This may be the weirdest dance routine you will ever see. It is inaccessibly strange and the fact that it’s beardy beefcake Shia LaBeouf dancing with a thirteen year old Maddie Ziegler does nothing to ease that. It takes a couple of viewings to get past that, but then you start to see the tight choreography and precision in movement
5. Shadows – Lindsey Stirling
I wanted to put everything Lindsey Stirling has ever done on this list. She’s an incredible performer and I want to be her. However, even she cheats in her videos and cuts away. Shadows is pretty close though, a nice extended side-by side dance with a shadow with no cuts until more than two minutes in.
6.OK Go – Here It Goes Again
Speaking of no cuts, Here It Goes Again is legendary as a viral video and started OK Go on their path of ever increasingly insane single shot music videos.
7. The Chemical Brothers – Wide Open ft. Beck
Chemical Brothers ft. Beck is not the watermark I’d expect on a contemporary dance routine, but there it is. It’s a single shot, single performer, wonderful piece of art.
8. Kiesza – Hideaway
Another unexpected treat. The song sounds like a throwback to early nineties club anthems, but the video is incongruously an extended single-take multi-part dance number that belongs better in a musical from the fifties.
9. Beyoncé – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Single ladies is so iconic and well known I almost didn’t bother putting it on this list.