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All the heroes are gearing up for the big sock-hop at the discotheque, but one character wants to stay behind. "What?" cry his friends. "You can't refuse to go! It's the big dance! It's the event of the season! It's being thrown in your honour!"

The reluctant character then grudgingly admits his Terrible Secret: He doesn't know how to dance! No worries, though; a single scene practicing his two-step and he'll be tripping the light fantastic in no time.

Watch the wording here: If a character says he doesn't dance, that usually means he can but he never told you. If he says he won't dance, that means his heart won't let his feet do things that they should do.

Examples of I Can't Dance include:


Comic Books

  • Happens in an Archie Comics story; Dilton doesn't know how to dance, so he builds a pair of shoes that dance for him, making him a sensation at the school dance. Then lightning strikes, the shoes go whack, and things don't end well.

Film

  • The film of Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.
  • In A Knight's Tale, Will is invited to the champion's ball after his first tournament, but he doesn't want to go because he doesn't know how to dance. He gets training from Geoffry Chaucer and ends up inventing his own dance (to the tune of Golden Years) later.
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Miss Pettigrew is trying to stifle her attraction to the charming and engaged Joe Blomfield, so when he asks her to dance, she gives the excuse, "Alas, I can dance nothing but the waltz." Cue the jazz band playing... a waltz.
  • Dante from Clerks II
  • In The Princess and the Frog, Tiana says in an early scene that she "has no time for dancing," and later she reveals that she's never danced before. So Naveen quickly teaches her how... which is impressive given that he was a frog at the time.
  • The introduction of Beta Couple Mac and Jessie in She's All That:

 Jessie: I can't dance.

Mac: I go to school with 500 chicks.

Literature

  • Joanne Walker of The Walker Papers insists she can't dance, but when her friends get her to go out clubbing, she has a good time anyway.

Live Action TV

  • An episode of Firefly was supposed to use this trope, with Mal unable to keep up with Inara during a formal dance, but the final product did not have the desired effect. Nathan Fillion and Morena Baccarin spent so much time rehearsing the scene that Nathan competently learned the entire dance and was not able to reproduce his previous clumsy efforts. Eventually, Joss Whedon decided to insert a line in post-production with Mal saying that this was a dance he actually knew, instead of re-shooting the scene and creating a mishap.
  • An episode of Chuck, where the eponymous character must learn to dance in order to get close to the Terrorist of the Week. I think it was even titled "Chuck Vs. The Tango."
  • In Legend of the Seeker, Cara has to pretend to be a princess to rescue Kahlan. When trying to learn the dance, this trope comes into play. As one recap put it "Cara rather adorably turns what was probably a waltz into krumping."
  • The Doctor in Voyager reveals in one episode that he literally cannot dance, because it's not in his program. Eventually he has it added to him.
  • In the season 1 episode "She," Angel is at a party Cordelia is hosting. He's trying to fit in, chatting with a girl, when she asks him if he wants to dance. Cut to Angel flailing around wildly, a big grin on his face, while the girl looks on in horror. Cut back to a closeup of Angel as he deadpans, "I don't dance." You can see it here.
    • Wesley also can't dance, but appears to be oblivious of this fact.
  • In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data asks Dr. Crusher to teach him to dance, but neglects to mention that it's for Keiko and O'Brien's wedding, so she starts off teaching him to tap dance (which he of course masters in 2 minutes).
  • Chef Gordon Ramsay stated this once after being invited to dance by a kid on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares.
  • Dr. Oz can not dance. He does try, however, very enthusiastically.
  • Subverted in the Sharpe TV series. A lady at a ball asks Sharpe to dance.

 Sharpe: I do not dance.

Lady: "Do not" or "cannot"?

Sharpe: Will not.

Music

 I can't dance! I can't talk,

The only thing about me is the way that I walk.

    • Bonus points for the fact the name of the album from which it came was We Can't Dance.
  • "Your Mama Don't Dance" by Loggins & Messina.
  • My Chemical Romance: "You can't swim, you can't dance, and you don't know karate. Face it, you're never gonna make it."
  • LL Cool J's "You Can't Dance" is a hilarious Take That, making a good case that some people just shouldn't try.

 Homeboy will you please get off the floor? You moron?!

 Tried movin' my body to the latest hit,

Someone called the nurse, thought I was havin' a fit,

I execute the moonwalk like I stepped in shit, I can't take it!

  • Frank Zappa's send up of 70s pickup/disco culture "Dancing Fool"

 "One of my legs is shorter than the other and both of my feet's too long" is one of the nicer self-analyses

Theatre

  • Willard's big secret in both the movie and musical version of Footloose is that he "can't dance". Not sure about the movie, but in the musical, he actually quotes the title verbatim:

 Willard: I can't do this! I can't dance!

    • Cue the shrieking from Rusty and the other kids. He eventually learns over the course of "Let's Hear It for the Boy".

Video Games

  • Squall in Final Fantasy VIII protests that he can't dance. So he gets forcibly dragged onto the dance floor, and trips all over himself a lot until Rinoa finally gets him to loosen up, after which he makes a liar of himself. Later on, Squall admits to Rinoa that he was lying; SeeDs are apparently trained in a number of social skills to help with subterfuge, and one of them is dancing because one may need to approach a target or contact at a formal party.
  • Commander Shepard may be the Badass to end all badasses, but he/she just sucks at dancing. Watch.
    • One of the prompts to dance in a club is "Dance?" as if the game itself is iffy on calling the flailing Shepard does on the floor "dancing."
    • Both Jack and Garrus will poke fun at Shepard's dancing in Mass Effect 3.

Webcomics

  • In Ears for Elves, this and You Said You Couldn't Dance are played with:
    • Tanna protests that she doesn't dance when Luero tries (and succeeds) to drag her into the dancing at the Taurëcuiva Festival, but she's actually rather good...

 Tanna: Dance'!? I don't dance!

Luero: I believe you mean you won't dance. And you're about to be proven wrong.

Tanna: Okay fine, it's not that I can't dance- I mean of course I learned how. I just haven't danced in a while.

    • ... unlike Luero, even though he told her to follow his lead. A few minutes after her reluctant entry to the dance floor:

 Tanna: Oh gods! You're terrible!!

Web Original

Western Animation

  • In one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures, the prom is coming up and Buster doesn't know how to dance, so he watches some Bugs Bunny cartoons to learn how.
  • An episode of Chalk Zone revolves around the fact that Rudy can't dance and he's going to be dancing with Penny the next night at the school dance. So he takes lessons in Chalkzone. When he finaly learns, he finds out that Penny has trouble herself!
  • In one episode of The Flintstones, Fred and Barney decided to take ballroom dance lessons so that they could surprise Wilma and Betty by taking them dancing. In order to keep their wives from finding out, they join the Bedrock Volunteer Fire Department(which is a scam run by the men of Bedrock to allow them to get away from their wives; since all buildings in Bedrock are made of stone, they can't catch fire).
  • In the Veggie Tales Silly Songs with Larry segment "Barbara Manatee", Barbara's boyfriend Bill reveals this after she asks him to take her to the ball. As this is a Soap Opera parody (emphasis on the "opera" part), this is taken as a huge shock and she plans to leave him over it.
  • A topic of a classic 50's Goofy Cartoon.
  • The Simpsons had this happen to Lisa when she tried taking tap dancing lessons and turned out to be absolutely terrible (though not through any fault of her own: her lessons consist solely of the words "tappa tappa tappa" which all of the other students manage to turn into instant dancing ability). Knowing that Homer and Marge are hoping to see her in the big recital, Lisa puts on a pair of self-tapping dancing shoes that Professor Frink invented. She does pretty well to start, but when her teacher goes into the big solo, Lisa's shoes force her to follow suit. It Got Worse when the crowd began applauding, as Lisa's shoes began to go completely haywire and she couldn't stop. Homer finally saves the day by tripping Lisa and knocking her off her feet.
  • This was the plot of the pilot episode for Doug, where Roger goes up to Doug before a costume dance the same day and tells him that he (Doug) can't dance.
  • In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, Twilight is a hilariously terrible dancer as seen in "Sweet and Elite".
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