Music Video Monday: Top Ten ’80s Dance Routines

I went back to dance class for the first time in about a year and a half tonight, and I’m (not) looking forward to an awkward few weeks where I struggle to keep up ’cause I’m still learning the routines. I thought I’d motivate myself by looking at some videos where everyone knows what they’re doing!

10. Kelly Marie – Feels Like I’m In Love

I can never help but smile at this silly, kitschy video in which Kelly Marie and her two sailor friends go dancing around Central London for a bit of shore leave sightseeing.

Kelly Marie - Feels Like I'm In Love

9. Lionel Richie – Dancing On The Ceiling

Lionel and his fabulously-dressed ’80s friends decide the floor is not good enough and go stamping all over the walls and ceiling, causing a disturbance on the next floor up! The ceiling dancing effect is a bit hokey nowadays (you can tell the exact angle to which the set has just been spun when the dancers awkwardly clamber from wall to ceiling), but it’s still a highly entertaining watch.

Lionel Richie - Dancing On The Ceiling

8. Wham! – Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

A lot of colourful dancing here, mainly from stalwart Wham! backing singers Pepsi and Shirlie plus a couple of extra friends, but it’s the day-glo UV lights sequence (long before it became trendy in videos of the early ’10s!) complete with dancing feet that I love about this video.

Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

7. David Bowie and Mick Jagger – Dancing In The Street

I still see a lot online, strangely, about how this video is OMG SCANDALOUS for some reason and not becoming of such musical luminaries (mainly from American commentators, it has to be said; Brits tend to be more ‘meh, it’s just a couple of mates pissing about having a laugh, what’s the issue here?’). Either way, you can’t have an ’80s dance video list without it, and I want to give a shout out to Mick Jagger’s Reebok Freestyles here. Freestyle wearers represent.

David Bowie and Mick Jagger - Dancing In The Street

6. Duran Duran – Wild Boys

No dancing from the band members here (Duran Duran do not dance, apart from that bit at the end of the New Moon On Monday video that they’d like you to forget about). The dancing is instead provided by the eponymous Wild Boys, a tribe of body-painted hostiles who have kidnapped the band (or something – like most music videos, the plot’s not very clear), and was choreographed by one-time Strictly judge Arlene Phillips.

Duran Duran - Wild Boys

5. Adam & The Ants – Prince Charming

There’s a lot to like in this classic video – Adam as the male Cinderella, Diana Dors as the fairy godmother, that fancy sports car that substitutes for the pumpkin carriage – but it’s the daft dance routine that will be remembered till the end of time. Ridicule is nothing to be scared of!

Adam & The Ants - Prince Charming

4. Elton John – I’m Still Standing

Elton John’s I’m Still Standing video is the gift that keeps on giving. The entire video is basically one long dance routine, ably led by Strictly judge Bruno Tonioli and his extensive collection of skimpy beachwear. The dancers lift each other in the air! They spin effortlessly on stairwells! They fall over on the beach! I could watch it a thousand more times and I’d probably still be picking up extra details.

Elton John - I'm Still Standing

3. Bananarama – Love In The First Degree

Bananarama are the ’80s queens of not-entirely-serious dance routines (their brilliantly half-arsed shuffle in the café in Really Saying Something is another of my favourites), and this cartoony prison-set video, complete with striped prisoner garb, balls and chains, and obvious stunt double backflips, is a shining example. Bonus points for the song being on the legendary Now! That’s What I Call Music #10 compilation.

Bananarama - Love In The First Degree

2. Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes

Another wonderfully odd early ’80s dance routine where the dancers spend a lot of time artistically slapping each other and then rhythmically slamming their palms against the floor in some kind of apparent protest. Great video.

Kim Carnes - Bette Davis Eyes

1. Michael Jackson – Thriller

Come on. What else could it have been?

When I became a horror film buff in the late ’90s/early ’00s I was utterly fascinated with this video and the way it homaged so many horror tropes. Vincent Price’s narration in the middle of the song over the zombies crawling out of their graves is a highlight, but there’s a reason why the dance routine is still taught in Zumba classes all over the world every time Hallowe’en rolls around. It’s an absolute classic, and I love the story of how director John Landis insisted on the dancers having two weeks of rehearsals (not the norm at the time) so that they would be absolutely in sync with each other and therefore creepier. No video will ever better this one.

Michael Jackson - Thriller

More music videos next week.