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Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – September – Mask of Zorro #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

Join me here for a year of movie trivia fun as I post dance scenes from movies set in historical time periods. I will give a brief summary of the movie’s plot and an equally brief set-up to the scene.

Each month on the second Wednesday, I will post a movie clip and link back to previous movie scene articles here on the blog.

This is the criteria by which I’m choosing movie scenes:

           In a non-musical movie, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

           In a musical drama, the characters in the dance scene don’t sing to each other.

           In a musical drama, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

           The historical cut-off is 1960, because that date works for me. ;-)

Side note:  The article “Classic Literature is Not Necessarily Historical Fiction” on the BookRiot website offers an interesting explanation on what constitutes historical fiction and where various historical date lines are drawn.

 Movies to this point:

January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May – Chocolat
June – Beauty and the Beast
July – Dirty Dancing
August – Cinderella

The September  movie dance scene is from the 1998 swashbuckler-type movie The Mask of Zorro. While this is Number 4 in my Top 5 Countdown to December, numbers 2 through 5 are interchangeable as for which one I like more than the others. My Number 1 dance scene, which I will reveal in December, is definitely my favorite. ;-)

Name of Movie: Mask of Zorro
Historical Time Period: 1821 – 1841
Location: Pre statehood California
Occasion/Purpose: Party at Don Rafael Montero's hacienda /  Distraction tactic
Type of Dance: Spanish Tango

Movie Still - Fair Use

Movie Summary:

This movie is a retelling of the Zorro legend. We begin with the original Zorro, Diego de la Vega, being captured by the evil Don Rafael Montero, who claims Zorro’s daughter, Elena, as his own. Fast forward 20 years, and we meet the grown up Elena and the soon-to-be-transformed into the new Zorro, Alejandro Murrieta.

 Set-up to the dance scene:

Young Zorro (Antonio Banderas) is trained by Old Zorro (Anthony Hopkins) who assumes the role of Young Zorro’s mute manservant. They attend the still-evil Don Rafael Montero’s big party at his hacienda. Alejandro cuts in on Elena dancing with Captain Love. Capt. Love is a truly dislikable character. The banter between Capt. Love and Alejandro is quite witty.

Alejandro and Elena dance the last few moments of a waltz, and it is perfectly respectable with appropriate distance between their bodies and their hands and arms are where they should modestly be in public.

At 1:15 in the YouTube clip below, the manservant catches Alejandro’s eye and indicates that a distracting intervention must occur to prevent Don Rafael and the other Dons (landowners) from leaving the party.

Alejandro challenges Elena. “Would you care to try something more robust, or do you feel unequal to the task?”

Elena responds, “No. On the contrary, Don Alejandro. I think only of your distaste for perspiration.”

At 1:36, Alejandro requests a song.

Nice lead in. We’re hooked. We can’t wait to see this dance. And oh what a dance it is. Visually, we are mesmerized. Aurally, we are delighted.

They waste no time whatsoever getting to the point of the dance. Alejandro sweeps Elena into his arms and bends her back. She puts her arm around his shoulder, and we are rocketed into a Spanish Tango

As the music and tempo intensify, so does the physical interaction heat up between Elena and Alejandro. They maintain eye contact. They maintain body contact. There is passion and desire fairly flying off the screen at us. Their steamy dancing fogs our glasses. They are completely consumed with each other. The world around them ceases to exist clear up to the end of the dance.

Their almost-kiss is interrupted when the crowd cheers and claps. Elena comes back from where she had lost herself so completely in the dancing, that it actually takes her several moments to realize the public, and quite unladylike, spectacle she has made of herself .

Captain Love is not impressed with what he sees on the dance floor. Don Rafael is mortified.

The scene is so well crafted that we ask ourselves if Elena and Alejandro are dancing or fencing for the way they advance, parry, step back, and move in again for the ‘kill’.

Through dance, this scene shows us just how ‘hot blooded’ they are. It also hints at the social mores of the time, while offering us the visual of the costuming of the era.

The scene’s ending with Alejandro saying to Elena’s evil ‘father’ Don Rafael, “This is the way they are dancing in Madrid these days…Excuse me, Don Rafael, I need to catch my breath. Your daughter is a very spirited dancer.”

Don Rafael says, “Spirited. Thank you for putting it so delicately.”

Elena shoots daggers from her eyes at Alejandro. It’s an absolutely marvelous dance scene. If we had any doubts up to this dance scene that Elena and Alejandro were in love, we don’t now.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time


  1. Marvelous choice! A great movie, the sexiest of dances, and executed beautifully by the actors. I was a fan of Catherine Zeta Jones when she was in The Darling Buds of May, and it shows she's a trained dancer. I think I'm going to watch this again this weekend.

    1. It is a sexy dance. Oh my gosh. Fanning myself here. hahaha Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones are both talented dancers (and actors). I always enjoy watching them dance. I might just watch the movie tonight, too. ;-)

  2. Kaye, I really did love this. I remember seeing this movie at the theater when it came out and just being totally enthralled with this scene. One of the sexiest scenes any time, any place. SIGH...

  3. Dance as power and a statement of intent. Thanks for including this tense, romantic scene, Kaye. Looking forward to the rest of your selections