We often here about models-turned-actors (like Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher and Uma Thurman) and singers-turned-actors (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Johnny Depp and even Rhianna!) but there are many actors out there who have surprisingly strong backgrounds in dance, be it ballet, tap or any other style. We’ve put together a list for you so you can see just how many celebs like to dance their hearts out too!
Stars who danced!
Mia Wasikowska - “Dancing itself is so liberating, and you feel fantastic. It’s like a drug.”
The Alice in Wonderland star began training as a ballerina at the age of nine, with hopes of going professional. She began dancing en pointe at thirteen, and was training 35 hours a week (Wow!) in addition to going to school full-time, her daily routine consisting of leaving school in the early afternoon and dancing until nine o’clock at night. Later on, a spur on her heel caused problems with her dancing. Wasikowska has also said that her passion for ballet also waned a little because of the pressure to achieve physical perfection and her growing dissatisfaction with the industry in general, which led her to quit at fourteen. However, she credits ballet with improving her ability to handle her nerves in auditions.
Throughout her years at Douglas County High School, she sang in the school choir and trained as an apprentice at a local dance company with ambitions of becoming a ballerina. Her parents had hoped that she would continue her athletic training, which she gave up to pursue dance a career in dance. After graduating from high school, Amy moved to Atlanta with her mother, and eventually made the decision that she was not gifted enough to be a professional ballerina, and instead entered musical theater. Adams has said she found this “much better suited to [her] personality”, and that for her, ballet was “too disciplined and too restrained.”
That’s right the Billy Elliot star was a real life Billy Elliot too! Bell started taking Ballet and tap lessons at age six (probably due to his grandmother, mother, aunt, and sister all having dance backgrounds). He copped a fair amount of teasing and ridicule from fellow classmates for being ‘girlie’, (he was commonly called “Ballerina Boy”) but Jamie says this only made him more determined to prove that ballet wasn’t just for girls. Well we’re pretty sure Bell got the last laugh as far as that one goes, it was thanks to his dance training that he landed the lead role in the critically acclaimed British film ‘Billy Elliot’ , which launched him into the film industry. Sadly for us dance fans though, acting saw him eventually put an end to his dancing career. ~ “Ballet is very hard. It takes a lot of practice to get to a certain standard.” – We agree Jamie!
Charlize Theron – “I was obsessed with ballet.”
Charlize Theron is another star to join the list of would-be dancers. She started ballet at the age of six, and at 12 was sent to a boarding school in Johannesburg, specialising in the arts. Here she studied classical ballet as well as flamenco, Greek and contemporary dance, and was dancing many hours a day. However dancing was sidelined for a while when her modelling career took off after she was discovered in a modelling competition that had her being flown to Italy. Once Theron moved to New York however, she enrolled at the Joffrey Ballet School, financing herself by modelling in her spare time. Sadly, her prima ballerina dreams ended when her knee “blew out” in class, forcing her to stop dancing …It looks like Charlize kept her super fit, healthy dancers body though!
Beckham started studying ballet at a young age. She pursued her interest in dance at the Laine Arts Theatre College in Surrey when she was 17. After three years there, Beckham moved to London to try to make it as a dancer. Her lucky break came when she answered an ad seeking energetic and hard-working young women who could “sing and dance” in 1993 – out of the 400 women who applied, Beckham was chosen to be part of a new all-female pop music group ‘The Spice Girls’, this saw Beckham’s career path change course, away from the dance world. Who would have guessed!
Yes, Cruz was bitten by the dance bug as well! And not just a little bit either, as a youngster Cruz spent 9 years dedicating herself to ballet and jazz, training at Spain’s National Conservatory in Madrid as well as learning Spanish ballet under the guidance of Angela Garrido for three years, and taking jazz lessons with Raul Caballero and completing a four year dance course with Cristina Rota in New York City. Alas, at 15 Penelope was talented spotted as well (she was hand-picked out of over 300 by a talent agency), and whisked off to begin a promising career in film, starting with many commercials and TV show appearances. You can still catch her doing a dance number in the movie ‘Nine’ though, for anyone who’s interested.
This screen icon isn’t alive to grace our screens anymore, but when she was, the classic beauty harbored a love of dance that was fostered when she was taken to the ballet as a little girl in Brussels. Audrey began taking ballet lessons at the age of six, and by twelve was doing serious ballet training under Winja Marova at the Arnhem School of Music. She was here for three years and became the teacher’s star pupil. The next year Audrey began teaching ballet to earn money for her family. At sixteen Audrey started studying with Sonia Gaskell, the leading name in Dutch ballet.
Audrey was unable to afford the lessons, but due to her potential Gaskell took the young dancer on anyway. “Sonia taught me that if you work really hard, you’d succeed, and that everything had to come from the inside.” Three years later Audrey flew to London and auditioned for the celebrated Marie Lambert ballet school and was accepted on a scholarship, however, being very poor her mother was forced to postpone until their financial situation improved. Audrey’s dreams were still very much on being a Ballerina, but this was not to be, soon after she was able to afford to attend the school in London, her part-time jobs in modelling lead her towards theatre and film opportunities that the young Hepburn couldn’t refuse. Nevertheless, her elegance and graceful manner on screen is often attributed to her extensive dance background.
A bit of an exception on this list; the hollywood heart-throb doesn’t have a background in dance, actually he’s just started, and with ballet no less! Gosling insists that he’s terrible, but we have to give him props for being brave enough to have a go, and for no other reason than that he enjoys it! Have a look HERE to see what he has to say about his skills
The Romeo and Juliet star began taking Modern dance lessons at the age of six and enjoyed it very much, apparently the actress still does classes today, she even showcases some moves in this GAP commercial with Patrick Wilson!
This ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ star trained as a ballet dancer as a young girl, and her action star performance in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ has been been credited to this training by herself and the director, who said she was able to do so much more than the average actor because of her fit dancer’s body. Yay for dancers!
…And here’s even more famous people who danced:
In 1987, when Simpson was three years old, she began studying classical ballet and studied at the School of American Ballet in New York City, before dance gave way to a music career.
Who could forget her in ‘Center Stage’. Well, she was a real-life dancer for many years as well!
Just like her sister the singer danced for much of her childhood.
Lyndsy Fonseca – This ‘Kick-Ass’ star had a brief career in dance before she was discovered by her agent, she was even the IMTA’s runner-up for “Young Miss Dancer of the Year”!
Also from Center Stage, After attending a summer school with the San Francisco Ballet just after graduating school, Schull was offered a years scholarship to continue training with them, and when Schull’s year-long scholarship ended in ’99, San Francisco Ballet‘s artistic director offered her an apprenticeship which she accepted. Before her apprenticeship finished, Schull was cast in the starring role of Jody Sawyer in the 2000 movie Center Stage. She subsequently joined SFB as a full-time member of its corps de ballet, but acting was soon to take over.
The actress, known for her starring role in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008) only stopped dancing after a broken toe put a stop to her professional ballet career.
This ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ actress appeared in several music videos as a talented back-up dancer – notably Missy Elliot’s, before breaking into the film industry.
(From Glee) Morris is a former Britney Spears back-up dancer.
That’s right, she was in music videos before she was making them!
The actress scored a role in the dance film ‘The Company’ because of her dance background.
The pop icon was dancing in leotards long before her music career took off, check out how little she is in the pic!
The ‘Back to the Future’ actress attended the School of American Ballet and The San Francisco Ballet, in which she had won a scholarship as a young girl, before pursuing an acting career.
Emilie de Raven
From films such as ‘Remember Me’ and the ‘Once Upon a Time’ TV series, was an Australian Ballet School student before she caught the acting bug.
This movie legend originally trained as a dancer in musical theatre!
…And last but not least, look at Princess Diana!
Phew! What a list, did we surprise you with any of those names, is there someone we’ve forgotten? Let us know
This list was composed of stars who became famous without, and for reasons other than dance, for an article on ‘famous dancing celebrities’ (ie. Michael Jackson) stay tuned!
Anyway, it just goes to show with so many actors and performers starting out with dance, that it really does draw in the artistic and creative people in this world! And the fact that many talented people gave up on a career in the dance industry is just more proof of how much hard work being a successful dancer really is, so whether you do it just for fun, or with dreams of performing, keep working and pushing, because how far you go is up to you
Hope you enjoyed the article,