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A Brief History of How Street Dance Influenced the Movie Musical

From “West Side Story’ to ‘In the Heights’ here’s a brief look at the way urban dance informs the modern movie musical.
West Side Story Dance
United Artists
By  · Published on January 4th, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay about how street dance influenced the modern movie musical.

As you may or may not have noticed, 2021 has been the year of the movie musical. From the highs of Annette to the lows of Dear Evan Hansen, you couldn’t throw a rock at a streaming service this year without hitting a film beholden to a show tune.

So in that spirit, I’m sure plenty of us are thinking through the mechanics of the movie musical more so in 2021 than in other years. And with that, it’s worth unpacking the visual power of one half of the equation: dance. After all, the moving image was, initially just that: no sound, just physicality. And just like mime and exaggerated acting, dance is a medium of expression capable of gesturing (rather literally) towards complex relationships, themes, and tensions.

So, surprise surprise, dance is a nuanced way of confronting the complexities of urban tension. Especially considering that the cultures that form melting pots tend to have their own longstanding dance traditions. So, without further ado, here’s a video essay on how street dance shaped the modern movie musical, from In The Heights to West Side Story to Step Up 2: The Streets.

Watch “How Street Dance Shaped The Modern Movie Musical”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how street dance influenced the modern movie musical comes courtesy of the fine folks at Little White Lies, a film-obsessed magazine based in the United Kingdom. Lillian Crawford wrote and edited this video, which was produced by Adam Woodward. You can follow Little White Lies on Twitter here. And you can check out their official website here. You can subscribe to their YouTube account here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.