If you fast-forward through commercials, you might be missing out on some of the best dancing on television. In an effort to capitalize on our current obsession with all things dance, companies like Ikea, Nike, T-Mobile, and Ford have been making spectacular use of choreography in recent years – and we think this is an excellent excuse to create a list of some of our favorites.
Gap: If only the clothes were as interesting as their commercials. With so many choices, from the iconic “Khaki Swing” to this charming Broadway bit with Claire Danes and Patrick Wilson, we had a hard time picking our favorite. But this homage to West Side Story, featuring original choreography by Jerome Robbins, is definitely top of the heap. (2000)
Palm Pre: A recent article by LA Times columnist Dan Neil takes note of advertisers’ increasing use of large-scale choreography, à la the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies, in commercials. From Vaseline’s “Sea of Skin” to the Improv Everywhere-inspired T-Mobile dance in Liverpool Street Station, the trend shows no sign of abating. This one, for the Palm Pre, was co-choreographed by Sun Yupeng, who was part of the Beijing opening ceremonies’ creative team. Featuring actress Tamara Hope (aka “that creepy chick”), along with 1,000 dancers. (2009)
Cadbury Caramilk: This commercial probably won’t entice audiences to see modern dance, but we have to admit it’s pretty clever. Created by Saatchi & Saatchi and directed by Ulf Johansson. (2009)
Ford: Should the dance company cease to exist, the limber performers of Pilobolus can always fall back on a career in advertising. They have appeared in numerous commercials, many of them for car companies. This one, for Ford, is among the loveliest. (2008)
Hanes: This underwear commercial features members of MOMIX, a company of dancer-illusionists led by Moses Pendleton, a founding member of Pilobolus. (2006)
Kia and Carlton Draught: Perhaps one of the most spoof-able movies of all time, Flashdance has inspired more than one commercial in which some dude gets sweaty while channeling Jennifer Beals. Here we present two, both from 2007: Australian beer company Carlton Draught in “Flashbeer” and Kia’s rendition.
Riva Coffee: Another gem from Australia, this commercial is kind of like OK Go’s neat-o treadmill video, only with shopping carts. (2007)
Nike: Definitely wins the award for the greatest number of awesome dance commercials. We had to pick three: This Russian “Just Do It” ad, featuring a hip hop dancer and ballerina, is a classic (2007). And this one, a song-and-dance polemic against plastic surgery (which is rampant in South America, where the commercial aired), urges women to “suda el jamon” – sweat the fat (2007). Last but not least, the amazingly talented and gorgeous Sofia Boutella thumbs her nose at the dancer/athlete divide (2006).
Burger King: The song is lame and the Burger King guy is kind of terrifying, but this commercial’s cheeky nod to Busby Berkeley won us over. (2006)
Ikea: Another entry in the dancing-while-decorating category: Former “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant Robert Muraine (aka Mr. Fantastic) and dancer Sugamai Johnson prove they can pop and lock with lamps and pillows (2008).