Dance Day # 4: El Tango de Roxanne

Sometimes you watch a movie when suddenly, there is a scene that won’t let you go, a scene that gives you goosebumps and takes away your ability to talk for a short while. We’re lucky enough to have YouTube these days, so there aren’t many scenes we can’t watch over and over, but some scenes just won’t be ruined, not even when having watched them a thousand times.

For me, El Tango de Roxanne (Moulin Rouge) is such a scene. It’s a great example of a perfect combination between dance, music, light and everything. It’s this combination that struck me when I saw it for the first time. The more you watch it, the more shots you will discover. If you only watch this once, you’ll miss a lot of things. The great amount of shots is what makes this scene so dynamic and powerful. But there are other things too. For those interested, here’s a more technical approach to this scene.

A More Technical Approach

First of all, there are three storylines in this piece: there’s the Argentinian guy who tells the story of ‘a prostitute, and a man who falls in love’. He picks out one of the girls of the Moulin Rouge as the prostitute, Nini. She’s the cheeky one, but as soon as the AG (Argentinian Guy) picks her out, she changes and plays her role.

So, AG tells this story, that is really similar to Christian’s story. He’s a writer who has fallen in love  with Moulin Rouge’s greatest star, Satine.

Last but not least, the third storyline is Satine. She is having dinner with the Duke, who has fallen in love with her. He’s important because of his money, and Satine is forced to do whatever he wants to. But of course, he’s a total asshole, and she is in love with Christian as well.

Our dear AG starts to tell his story and Nini and he dance, so this story isn’t only told by words. The Music also plays a big role: Ag starts singing Roxanne by The Police, but in a slightly adapted version. At 1:20, you can see how Nini’s eyes are illuminated, a great use of light. Many moves during their dance are repeated later on by the group. The kicking leg, the arms spread, this kind of moves. At 1:43, AG has gripped Nini’s wrist (watch her face after he let her go! the cheeky prostitute is replaced by a real actress). At 3:05, the group has a more or less similar move: the men hold the girls by their wrists. Watch their eyes, it’s almost like they’ve been crying. It adds a dramatic feel to this scene, especially combined with that vulnerable move. At 5:22, the Duke has taken Satine by her wrists.

At that moment, Satine and the Duke have seen Christian passing by, and the Duke realises Satine doesn’t love him. He goes mad. Really mad. (He’s freaky guy after all…) The music was gone for a little while, but at 5:22, the violin starts playing again, an Arabic sounding voice appears, and tension’s built up. Then there’s a sort of explosion: all three storylines have come to a point of brutal action, all together. Watch the group at the end of their dance: it’s almost as if they are fighting, just like Satine and the Duke. At the end of the scene, everyone’s shouting and you feel that this can go but in one direction: the end.

During this scene, there are also small moments where the feeling of intimacy is nicely built up. 3:30, 4:12, 4:40 to name a few: moments where we see people of the group as if they don’t know we see them. Vulnerable, intimate moments.

This scene is by far one of the most dynamic, powerful and touching scenes I’ve ever seen. Here’s the best video I could find on YouTube so you can see it again, or for the first time. Enjoy!


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  1. One of my all time favorites too (along with the Tango from “Scent of a Woman”. I do ballroom and Latin with Salsa being my focus. Love dance and the passion in that scene is incredible! Thanks for the wonderful commentary of the scene. Other people’s passion is so infectious…makes me want to watch it again!

    • That was my aim! 🙂
      I love to do ballroom dancing, tango on top now, but I don’t really have the time anymore, unfortunately. I haven’t seen Scent of a Woman, but it’s on my list now! Thanks for commenting!

  2. It’s so strange. I love a good dance movie, or a movie containing dance. But ‘Moulin Rouge’ I had to fight myself through and have absolutely no recollection of it at all.
    But I understand the fascination of dance and would wish I’d be able to do some classes. After I took as a teenager, at that time obligatory if you wanted to keep up with your friends and the cool crowd, a dance class – I never sat a foot on the dance again. In terms of ballroom dance that is. Main reason because I was very self – conscious about my height and to add insult to injury the guys were half a head shorter then me. I couldn’t deal with that again.

    • Haha, I share your pain, I don’t think I’ll ever find a dance partner who’s taller than me… I’m 1m80. ut for now, I’ll stick to ballet.

      You have to be keen on the Moulin Rouge kind of movies, yes, it’s something you either like or not… But this piece is definitely nice, I think ;).

  3. Tango scenes are often very visually striking. Like the Tango Maureen from Rent and the Cell Block Tango from Chicago, which I both love too 🙂

  4. Moulin Rouge will forever and always only make me think of the music video Christina Aguilera and company put out. I still can’t decide if they looked hot or just trashy.

    If I were to make a video of me dancing would it make it onto Dance Day? I never would but I want a hypothetical answer.

    Any chance the dance scene from Pulp Fiction making its way on here? I’m obsessed with the movie right now. In a few months it’ll be obvious why.

    • I have never seen Pulp Fiction (that movie too is on the list!) but give me a good link and I’ll consider it.
      And that hypothetical video of yours, well, let’s say everything has a chance to make it onto Dance Day…! It’s your fault that I’m now imagining you dancing around. Blame yourself!

    • Yes! Watch Pulp Fiction and then play that scene!
      I really like that scene in Moulin Rouge. I love how they use Roxanne in an old-fashioned kind of way. So clever.
      Also, have you seen the musical Chicago yet? Lots of good dancing and songs in that one!

      • Man, it’s like I haven’t seen any movie at all… Or musical. I have never seen Chicago, nor Pulp Fiction, nor all the other movies mentioned… It’s all on my list!

  5. A good tango is a thing of beauty.
    I’m sorry I never mastered it.


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