Dancers Who Defined A Decade: 1990s Pop Culture and Ballroom Dance

The Electric Slide, the Macarena, “Vogue-ing,” the Cotton Eye’d Joe…Sound familiar? How about The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Beauty and the Beast or RENT?

The 1990s brought an eclectic variety of dance styles, bands, and trends.  Unlike the previous decades, it would be nearly impossible to decide on just one dancer as the icon of the 1990s dance landscape, so we decided to dedicate the 1990s to a dance instead! Get comfortable, we’re about to take a nostalgic look back at the 1990s and explore the re-emergence of ballroom dance, as it showed up in pop culture everywhere!

Let’s start in Hollywood.  In 1993, “Swing Kids” unleashed the goods on the underground world of swing music and dance. Even though the film was set in World War II Germany, we were still able to translate their off-the-beaten path experience to our own ’90s lives. Suddenly, swing dancing seemed to be on every screen and a generation who had never really experienced partner dancing developed the urge to learn the Lindy Hop.

Partner dance in mainstream media quickly progressed from showcasing the dance moves of the past to incorporating them into movies set in the present day. Funny man Jim Carrey, clad in a bright yellow suit and a pliable green face, took to the floor in the 1994 blockbuster “The Mask” to showcase some pretty sweet steps.

Moving to the Broadway scene, the 1990s proved to be no exception to the expectations of Broadway showstoppers. Amazing new shows were churned out year after year, displaying the best musical and dance talent in the world! In fact, some all-time favorites like “RENT” and the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast,” debuted and thrived on Broadway during this decade. In fact, both of these two shows are known for featuring awesome partner dance scenes!


Check out Belle and her Beast waltzing effortlessly around the dance floor:

Or for something racier, fans may remember the drama of the tango scene between Mark Cohen and Joanne Jefferson in the 1996 debut of RENT.  The two dominated the stage with their saucy and sharp tango moves, and although it was a departure from the overall style of the show, fans enjoyed the vibrant change of pace.


Finally, let’s talk about pop music! Boy bands and female pop vocalists were everywhere during the 1990s. Who can forget the perfectly choreographed music videos of NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys?  Although not classic ballroom, it is easy to see the inspiration and ballroom techniques throughout their performances. Don’t see it? Let’s take a look! In Britney Spears’ 1999 “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” you can see the sharp spins, hip swiveling and overall sassy attitude that draw from the Salsa!

You can probably see why we had a hard time choosing just one dance icon as the 1990s influencer. With so many creative, innovative and artistic performances on every stage, it seemed only logical to bring it back to the foundational influence: ballroom dance!


Showcasing how timeless these ballroom dance moves can be, the 1990s paved the way for the new century and the popular dance shows we love to watch today.  Tune in next month when we take a look at the 2000s and the popularity of the dance shows that we still love to watch today!


Tell us: what other popular ballroom dance references have you noticed from the 1990s, or any decade? We’d love to hear!