Most Memorable Dance Moments: The 2023 Academy Awards

The 2023 Academy Awards ceremony was a particularly memorable one—and not just because the iconic “red carpet” was, for the first time in decades, not red. With outstanding stage performances, history-making wins for talents of underrepresented communities and tight races across the board, last night’s broadcast kept viewers on the edge of their seats.

As for us dance enthusiasts, we especially awaited the performance of “Naatu Naatu,” the exceedingly catchy track from the Telegu film RRR that later that evening would make history as the first Indian film song to win an Oscar, claiming the award in the Best Original Song category. The anticipation for this performance was noticeable throughout the night, even well before the ceremony began—during the preshow broadcast, ABC news reporter Chris Connelly shared that he had worn his suspenders in anticipation of dancing along with the ensemble, and during a preshow interview, “Naatu Naatu” star Ram Charan got anchors Linsey Davis and Whit Johnson moving with a bit of the viral choreography.

The evening’s first onstage dance moment was both hilarious and unexpected. To wrap up his opening monologue, ceremony host Jimmy Kimmel joked that if any awardee’s speech went on too long, rather than being played offstage with the typical music, they would instead be danced off by a group of “Naatu Naatu” performers. The audience burst into laughter as six of the dancers surrounded Kimmel doing the hallmark hook step, enthusiastically edging him off to kick off the awards.

Onstage at the Oscars awards ceremony, Stephanie Hsu wears an extravagant feathered white dress as she sings alongside David Byrne, who wears a white modern-styled suit and “hot dog” fingers. Around them on the floor in a circle, an ensemble of ten dancers in white costumes reminiscent of martial arts uniforms do a contraction on their backs. A group of three male musicians plays at the back of the stage, behind them a projection of a large black space-like ring.
David Byrne, Stephanie Hsu and Son Lox perform onstage during the live ABC telecast of the 95th Oscars® at the Dolby® Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 12, 2023.

Next was the weirdly wonderful performance of best picture winner Everything Everywhere All at Once’s track “This Is a Life,” which was nominated for best original song alongside “Naatu Naatu.” An ensemble of dancers in white costumes reminiscent of martial arts uniforms joined the band Son Lux, singer/songwriter David Byrne and best supporting actress nominee (and former Broadway performer) Stephanie Hsu in their delightful and wacky performance of the song, complete with an onscreen cameo from EEAAO digital star Raccacoonie. In a quirky number studded with extraordinary martial-arts–esque feats, slow-motion moments and an ending contraction held for an impressively long time, the dancers of “This Is a Life” took the multiverse track to the next level.

About an hour and a half into the ceremony came the much-awaited performance of “Naatu Naatu,” featuring Prem Rakshith’s film choreography. Expectations were high for this anti-colonial “banger,” as described by presenter Deepika Padukone, but the cast—which included a surprisingly low number of South Asian performers—exceeded nearly all with its rip-roaring Technicolor performance fit for the Broadway stage (RRR: The Musical, anyone?). The dancers’ infectious energy and powerful execution of the iconic choreography added to the list of the evening’s triumphs—for film, song, South Asian representation and, inarguably, dance.

On the Oscars stage, two male South Asian dancers pose triumphantly, fists raised together, and smile jubilantly in the final pose of an energetic dance number. They wear dress shirts with suspenders and pants and stand in front of a backdrop colonial-esque architecture.
Rahul Sipligunj and Kaala Bhairava performing “Naatu Naatu” during the Oscars. Photo by Blaine Ohigashi, courtesy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The Oscars may historically be all about the little gold man, but after nights like last night it is clear to us the power that strong performances make. While we’ll still wonder why there isn’t a category for best choreography yet, the dance world has a lot to be proud of from this year’s crown jewel film event.

The post Most Memorable Dance Moments: The 2023 Academy Awards appeared first on Dance Magazine.

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