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"But something happens when we slow dance."
—Keri Hilson, "Slow Dance"
So Alice and Bob, who either don't know each other very well, or are Just Friends, are attending some fancy party. For some reason, they wind up dancing to some slow romantic song that requires waltzing or some other dance typified by close body contact. Hey, that's ok, nothing special—except she's starting to blush, and he's getting all nervous. Could it be? Are they in love?
This often pops up during high school dances and fancy parties, the kind with hooped skirts and masks. For some reason, waltzing with a friend, or friend-of-a-friend, always winds up with one or both participants acquiring (or realizing) feelings of love towards the other, as though it were some kind of movement-driven truth/love spell. Often prefaced by an observation that She Cleans Up Nicely, and frequently occurs during a High School Dance, though it is by no means exclusive to teenagers.
A subtrope of Dances and Balls, obviously.
When adding examples, keep in mind that this trope is about the dance being the first indication of romance between the dancers, not just a romantic dance between two people who are in love (or in denial).
Anime & Manga
- Utena and Anthy; in both movie and series of Revolutionary Girl Utena. It's even more spectacular in the movie: the scene features both girls, a clear starlit sky, a rose garden covered in water creating a mirror-like floor, and of course, the song as they reach to each other and dance, "Toki ni, Ai wa (At times, Love is)".
- Zero no Tsukaima: After catching Fouguet, the academy holds a ball where Louise asks Saito for a dance. In the novels, at least, Saito declares that that was the time when he fell in love with Louise.
- Yami no Matsuei: This trope is Hisoka and Tsubaki. The start of their interaction consists pretty much of her bumping into him and then getting him to dance with her. Cue slow, romantic music, and Gaussian Girl effects as they stare into each other's eyes. Sadly, things go to HELL soon and the poor girl ends up dead.
- The Magic World Ball chapters of Mahou Sensei Negima had two sets of these going, one straight, and one with several subversions. The straight one is Kotaro/Natsumi, and the oddball one being Negi/Asuna, because it isn't really Asuna, but her doppleganger Shiori/Luna... and then it's played straighter, since by that point Shiori/Luna is developing feelings for Negi.
- Subverted in Honoo no Alpen Rose, where Jeudi gets dolled up in a red gown to dance a waltz with the Romantic False Lead instead of the guy she has loves from childhood. Further subverted when said dance turns out to be plot-relevant, as it triggers the return on one of Jeudi's lost memories: dancing with a man who seems to be her father... before the plane crash that left her orphaned and amnesiac.
- Played a little straighter in the OP of the series, where she's seen dancing with both the False Lead and the Victorious Childhood Friend.
- Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics:
- Cinderella: the Prince's parents play the trope for laughs, then Cindy and the Prince play it straight.
- The Coat of All Colors (Allerleirauh): three balls are featured, and the Fallen Princess Aleia manages to sneak in them thanks to the three gowns she could save from her castle's destruction. This gives her the chance to dance with her Benevolent Boss and Love Interest, Prince Alexander.
- In Aleia's case, this is subverted when she later sees Alexander dancing with another lady and believes that she's lost her chance to ever tell him what she feels for him. Further subverted since, while dancing with him, Aleia remembers her Dark and Troubled Past and how she used to dance with her dad before he went crazy and tried to marry her, so she ends up short-circuitting.
- In the first Sailor Moon anime's Whole-Episode Flashback dedicated to the Silver Millennium, Prince Endymion of Earth sneaks into a ball held on the Moon to dance with his girlfriend, Princess Serenity. As they waltz together, he warns her about the current instability in Earth.
- Nadja and Francis' relationship in Ashita no Nadja is marked by the times they get to dance together.
- Sort-of used in Kyojin no Hoshi, between the protagonist Hyuuma Hoshi and the prospect Idol Singer Rumi Tachibana. This is the pachinko game rendition.
- Subverted when Hyuuma, his Friendly Rival Housaku and the delinquent girl Kyouko end up in a dance club. Hyuuma does not dance with Kyouko and can't help thinking of his awkward dance with Rumi plus his time with his dead other love interest Mina as he watches her on the dance floor. But Housaku does (rather awkwardly) dance with her; since he falls for the girl hard and they eventually marry, it can be seen as them playing the trope straight.
- In Hana no Ko Lunlun, the titular character needs a dancing partner for a competition between two clog makers in the Netherlands, but doesn't have one. In comes her handsome Mysterious Protector Serge, whom she already has a crush on, and they happily dance together.
Film - Animated
- Beauty and the Beast is one of the most famous examples, as they dance to Beauty and The Beast.
- The Swan Princess at the end of the song This Is My Idea
- Tiana and Naveen in The Princess and the Frog; "If I can mince, you can dance."
- Anastasia: with Dimitri after her gives her a dress in the Waltz Reprise of Learn to do it Vlad even lampshades it: "I never should have let them dance..."
- Sleeping Beauty. Though Prince Phillip is drawn to Aurora by the sound of her voice, her first introduction to him is when he sneaks up behind her and starts waltzing with her to Once Upon a Dream. They also get to dance together at the very end of the movie.
- Subverted in Tangled where Rapunzel and Flynn were trying to reach each other during the Kingdom Dance but don't come together until the song has ended.
- Nearly the whole of Cinderella's romance occurs as Prince Charming and the titular heroine dance to So This Is Love.
- Rio. After dancing a samba duet, Blu and Jewel are on the verge of kissing... until the bad guys turn up.
- Both Animated Adaptations of The Nutcracker (one from 1990 and another from 1995) have dancing scenes between Clara/Marie and the Nutcracker that drip with Ship Tease. The 1995 movie actually finishes with this trope: as soon as Hans/the Nutcracker is back to his human form, he takes Marie with him to the Land of Sweets and they dance together (they did dance before, but back then he was still the Nutcracker). The very last shot has a very happy Marie leaning on Hans' shoulder as they dance, thinking of how much she loves him.
- Sort of happens in The Sound of Music: Maria and Captain Von Trapp, when the kids ask to be shown the 'Laendler'. Whilst the audience (and the Baroness) can see this coming long before that, it's the first time either of the eventual couple give any inkling of noticing they love each other.
- This is the way Robert and Giselle both realize that they were meant to be with each other in Enchanted. It's also the only possible way they could justify Edward and Nancy, even though both of them were glaring at their respective partners the whole time.
- It looks like this is happening to Janis and Damien towards the end of Mean Girls, but thankfully the pair quickly think better of it.
- Played straight after Damien runs off. Kevin slips into Janis's still-open arms and starts dancing with her while asking about her ethnicity.
- Tony Stark first seemed to notice Pepper romantically when he got her out onto the dance floor for a nice slow waltz. They have an awkward and comedic conversation about it afterwards.
- Crumb and the old guy do this in The City of Lost Children.
- James Bond and Domino dancing a tango in Never Say Never Again. Does not quite cross over into Mating Dance territory, but one can see why Largo interrupts it at the first possible moment.
- Happens in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day:
Joe: I am making you uncomfortable?
- Played straight at the beginning of Mr. and Mrs. Smith when John and Jane dance in Colombia, and then subverted later on in the ballroom when they use the dancing to cover the fact they are removing each other's weapons.
- Arguably the entire plot of Dirty Dancing.
- In When Harry Met Sally at the first New Year's party.
- There's a cute one in the 1987 film adaptation of Anne of Avonlea between Anne and Gilbert. It deeply affects Anne, who jerks away quickly after a few moments and makes an excuse to leave. Up until that point, she'd been oblivious to both Gilbert's feelings for her and her own feelings for him. She still remains oblivious to her feelings for him for a few more years.
- Cheek To Cheek from Top Hat.
- At the end of Elizabeth's first dance with Mr Darcy in the Keira Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice Mr Darcy says that he hopes to afford Elizabeth more clarity of his character in the future. This must have been significant to Elizabeth because at that point everyone in the room disappears and Mr Darcy is the only one she notices.
- In The Artist, when George and Peppy film the dancing scene for "A German Affair", they keep screwing up the takes because they can't stop staring at each other or making each other laugh. It culminates in a Held Gaze, after which a visibly unsettled George walks off the set. In the film's screenplay, this is actually pointed to as the precise moment where the two fall in love.
- Almasy and Katherine's dance in The English Patient film. It's romantic in that the mutual attraction between the two becomes apparent, but it is also extremely... uncomfortable because of the sheer intensity of their connection coupled with the fact that Katherine is another man's wife. And he's sitting not far away.
- In Beastly, a modern retelling of Beauty and The Beast, Adrian teaches Lindy how to dance after he sees that She Cleans Up Nicely. It could also be the point where Lindy started falling for Adrian too, considering that she begins Letting Her Hair Down and wearing perfume around him after the dance.
- In Isabel Cooper's No Proper Lady, the sexual tension between Simon and Joan is unsurprisingly kick-started when Simon begins teaching Joan how to waltz.
- Cinderella, and just about everything based off her.
Live Action TV
- Doc and Seven in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Someone to Watch Over Me".
- Odo and Kira in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "His Way." Granted, Odo had already been in love with Kira for years by this point, but their dance seemed to be the turning point that allowed Kira to realize her own feelings.
- ICarly: Carly and Freddie in iSpeed Date.
- Done twice in Nip and Tuck, first with Tuck and Thelma Possum at the harvest dance, then with Nip and Zelda Porcupine at the B-Movie cruise.
- In Battlestar Galactica, this happens in the episode "Colonial Day," for Lee and Kara (subverted in that there are already indications of mutual romantic feelings between them and Kara sleeps with someone else that night while fantasizing about Lee) and Roslin and Adama.
- In The Vampire Diaries episode "Miss Mystic Falls" 150+ year old vampire Damon Salvatore steps in to dance with his brother's human girlfriend, Elena Gilbert when Stefan fails to show up. You can see it in his eyes that this is the moment he realizes he loves her, and she appears somewhat affected as well.
- Also in The Vampire Diaries Stefan's dance with Elena's doppelganger, Katherine Pierce, is this as well, both in the past and in the present.
- In the Korean Drama The City Hall, Mi Rae and Ju Gook dance the tango at the Miss Baendaengi contest, finally letting the sparks fly.
- In the first episode of Bomb Girls Kate asks Betty to slow dance with her, very obviously setting up the beginning of their romance.
- Keri Hilson's song "Slow Dance", which is the quoted at the top of this page, is about this.
- The song "I Saw Her Standing There" by The Beatles is this trope in distilled form, combining the related tropes High School Dance, Holding Hands and Love At First Sight.
- Same to its genderflipped cover by Tiffany Darwich.
- Rick Astley's She Wants to Dance With Me.
- Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulet's party, so some adaptations (like the famous Franco Zeffirelli motion picture) have them dance before they first speak to one another.
- West Side Story during the dance at the gym. Tony and Maria see each other for the first time and dance. It's a cha-cha, not a waltz, but it fits.
- Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has an interesting variation. Mrs. Lovett is interested in Sweeney for the entire first half, but he's totally oblivious. Then come "A Little Priest", he notices her in a different light and they waltz. The catch? This sudden romantic interest is due to her...unsual idea of how to dispose of the body of the man he just killed.
- Miss Saigon is another atypical variation; Kim and Chris dance together, which seems to be the usual practice in the club before going off with a client, but there's only a hint of affection; they don't fall deeply in love until afterwards, and the scene that looks like a typical Dance of Romance is the reprise of the song they danced to when they first met.
- Final Fantasy VIII. The scene where Rinoa persuades Squall to dance with her is where you first know that they're the Official Couple. Well, y'know, besides the image on the cover.
- Elaine does this with Guybrush in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood, although it is parodied as a "Freaky Waltz of Attempted Rape".
- Pictured above: In Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, Berkut and Rinea get a whole cutscene dedicated to them waltzing together.
- There an annual Tempest Trial event in Fire Emblem: Heroes that's about units with the Dance/Sing command (being able to give Extra Turns to others via a Magic Dance or Magic Music), and naturally the trope is invoked more than once. The 2019 one introduced Rinea and an alter for Berkut, and naturally they danced together and even their artwork matched one another in dancing poses; on the other hand, it also had alters for Ishtar and Reinhardt (in canon, he's implied to have a Bodyguard Crush on her but she's both the Morality Pet and girlfriend to The Dragon Prince Julius) that have buttloads of Ship Tease, including a "He Is Not My Boyfriend" from her. The 2020 one, on the other hand, features two Official Couples: Sigurd and Deidre (as a Duo unit) and Quan and Ethlyn (as separate ones). (Plus Eldigan and Lachesis - the latter has a HUGE case of Big Brother Worship towards the first, all but going into Brother-Sister Incest from her part)
- Like many other things, the trope is spun around in School Days. Makoto can dance with Sekai next to the School Festival's bonfire. . . but by that time he's dating Kotonoha while also having sex with Sekai, so technically speaking he and Sekai are cheating. Several different endings can come from this, including one where Kotonoha sees them dancing after she's been raped by Taisuke (she's featured in the YT link above) and some time later snaps so hard that she murders Sekai; another where Makoto finds out that Kotonoha has been bullied by Sekai's friends over the affair, ditches Sekai for not stopping the bullying, and returns to Kotonoha's side; and another where Makoto has a threesome with BOTH Kotonoha and Sekai.
- In the HQ version Makoto can play this straight with Kotonoha if the player wishes so. Does not mean one can't get a bad ending, however.
- The dance party scene in Chicken Run includes one for the two leads (especially significant for the heroine.) Unlike most examples, it uses a fast-tempo song.
- Happens to Kick and Kendall in the episode "Dancing With the Enemy" on Kick Buttowski when they both share their first mutual hint of being attracted to one another (Kendall being the only one that sort of have hinted at it for a second or two previously)... however, the moment is broken thanks to an off-screen classmate who is apparently an on board shipper for this couple.
Kick: "You're so elegant..."
- It's pretty clear that this trope was in full effect at the end of Kim Possible So The Drama when Kim and Ron returned to the prom and danced to the song "Could It Be" which incidentally fit the mood perfectly, culminating in their First Kiss.
- Can be Truth in Television. Waltz songs are often romantic or ballad type songs, and having someone listen to that while having to concentrate on a dance partner can plant the idea that leads to romance.