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A Rain Dance is a ceremonial religious dance performed by people (usually aboriginal) who want to appeal to God/the gods to make it rain. Although it is commonly seen as a Native American device, rain dances have been practiced since Ancient Egyptian times. Rain Dances have been seen as recently as the 20th century in the Balkans.
Probably close to a Dead Horse Trope, in fiction it is used almost exclusively for laughs. The (non-believing) characters dance, sometimes in full-feathered headdress, and... something other than rainfall happens. Sometimes the characters will look at a "step chart" after such a failure and remark, "Oh, wait, that was the ______ dance!"
- Used in an old Hamm's Beer commercial (which is probably now politically incorrect). Watch two here, with Personal Raincloud results.
- In one Lucky Luke strip, an area inhabited by Native Americans is suffering from serious drought. As it turns out, their shaman has fallen from a horse and hit his head. He is otherwise OK, but can't get the dance right and his various attempts only produce minor weather anomalies (like a small blizzard after he does the macarena).
- In another, a group of irate native dignitaries enters the local saloon to deliver an angry message to the towspeople. These include their shaman... and his unruly apprentice, who is far more interested in the saloon girls than their mission, and decides to start dancing on the stage. Afterwards, it starts raining in the girls' dressing-room.
- Calvin attempts a snow dance to get school canceled. (It doesn't work.)
- Parodied in one The Far Side cartoon where the Indian chief is consulting a book called "101 Rain Dances" to figure out what the hell kind of dance he was doing ... while it's raining eggbeaters.
- In FoxTrot, Jason and Marcus once did a snow dance. Paige joined them in the hope that school might be canceled if it worked.
- In The Dresden Files, Injun Joe does this as a weapon against a shapeshifter, since running water will cancel out magic.
- Played straight in Claudius the God — a Roman commander whose troops are lost in the desert follows his native guide's advice to invoke the local rain god. It works.
- In the children's horror anthology Still More Scary Stories for Sleepovers, a Rain Dance causes the Downer Ending in "Night of the Ki-Khwan". Perhaps the only time a Rain Dance was ever played for horror.
- How I Met Your Mother has Ted do this in an Overly Long Gag as a desperate attempt to keep Robin from leaving to... well, let's just say it's complicated.
- In Double the Fist, Womp performed a rain dance that summoned... hamburgers.
- The X-Files. In "The Rain King", Daryl Mootz does The Theme Park Version of a rain dance, claiming Magical Native American ancestry. Scully and Mulder are not impressed...until it starts bucketing down out of a clear sky.
- In an episode of Ned's Declassified a reverse rain dance is performed by Coconut Head and the other boys to get it to be sunny (after several days of rain, and therefore students cooped up indoors).
- In the Pokémon series, "Rain Dance" causes "heavy rain" for five turns in battle. This boosts the strength of Water-type moves by 50%, cuts Fire-type moves by 50%, and has a variety of other effects on certain moves and abilities.
- Done by Mumbo in Banjo-Tooie's Cloudcuckooland.
- In the Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales episode "The Rainmakers", Chumley attempts a rain dance indoors, which does nothing. This is, of course, the lead-in to Professor Whoopee's explanation of what really makes rain.
- US Acres, from Garfield and Friends, has Roy buying a robot that will do dances for whatever... rain, snow, buckets of bolts, etc. Explained in the Literal Genie entry.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon "Grand Canyonscope", Donald fools around with a genuine raindancing costume and manages to summon a Personal Raincloud before the ranger catches him.
- In a Road Runner episode, Wile E. Coyote creates a thunderstorm by using the rain dance.
- Rango. The Water Dance is basically this, as the townsfolk of Dirt make a Cargo Cult appeal for water to come out of a pipe faucet. It's actually somewhat creepy.
- Alluded to in the Goofy cartoon short "How to Dance." A crowd of characters are dancing to tribal drumming music, and it rains on just them, and they all unfurl umbrellas as they continue dancing.
- A bumper series on the Beatles Cartoon has the boys mistaking a desert for the beach, and thus dying of thirst. The sand is so hot it has Ringo jumping around wildly and it turns out to be a rain dance that makes it rain. In the last segment, the torrent of rain causes a mammoth flood as Ringo doesn't know how to make it stop.
- In Alpha and Omega, Humphrey attempts a rain dance (and song) to try and STOP rain. Upon being informed of this, he starts singing and dancing in reverse.