If we’re being honest, Netflix’s Wednesday is, for much of its run, a bit blah monotonous, unimaginative and just a little too enthusiastic about borrowing concepts we’ve seen before. But give it four episodes (I know, I know) and you’ll at least witness one of the best goofy dance scenes television has made in a while. In an explosion of flailing arms, high kicks and piercing stares, Jenna Ortega gives Wednesday (and Wednesday) a school dance to remember.
What is the name chosen for the Nevermore Academy prom? The Rave’N Dance, of course. Our lady of black dresses and pigtails has little interest in the party, but still gets a date at her door, thanks to a little interference from her favorite disembodied hand, Thing. (Thing also grabs her a dress for the occasion using the “five-finger discount”.)
The stage is ready for a set piece from the start. The Rave’N Dance, like most school dances shown on television, looks much more expensive than a typical prom. From the icy blue lighting to the crisp white gear, this dance has flair. And then on Martian Wednesday, date in tow, in a surprisingly fluffy dress (still collared). Cue “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps.
It is right now that Wednesday— a series that, despite Tim Burton, often feels starved for ostentation — is finally starting to work. (At least, as long as Jenna Ortega is waving her arms.)
But let’s discuss some of those dance moves. Sometimes Ortega’s movements telegraph “corpse bride”; her arms and neck dangle as if hanging from a marionette. Then on her Onyx tour, she’ll pull an arm out with the crispness of Britney Spears, albeit at an angle that could make her look dead again. The camerawork on these shots only heightens the magic – at one point it floats to capture the piercing look on Ortega’s face as she throws her head back to the music.
Wednesday’s presence at the Rave’N Dance may have been an unexpected twist for her peers, but the Addams Family actually has a rich history of dancing. The original series featured multiple episodes where various characters attempted Lurch – Frankenstein’s monstrous manservant best known for moaning, “You called?” – learn how to groove. First it’s Gomez and Morticia in Season 1, then Wednesday offers Lurch another lesson in Season 2.
And who could forget the fun, almost fatal tango of Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia The values of the Addams family, which gave a whole new meaning to the words “fire on the dance floor”?
It’s nice to see that Wednesday continues this long-standing Addams tradition. But who was behind this work of choreographic chaos? Apparently, it was Ortega herself who choreographed the thing in a week — and then shot it while she was sick with COVID.
“I’m not a dancer,” Ortega said NME, and I am sure that is obvious.” She said she got the song about a week before it was time to run. However, on the morning of filming, she said she woke up feeling “like I had been hit by a car and a little goblin had been released into my throat and scratched at the walls of my esophagus.”
The production gave Ortega medication between takes, she said NME, while they waited for a positive COVID test result. (MGM, which produces Wednesdaytold NME that “strict COVID protocols were followed and once the positive test was confirmed, production removed Jenna from the set.”) Although Ortega believes she could have performed the scene better had she been healthy, there was no time to perform the dance to record again.
The good news is she kills it anyway. One source of inspiration? Siouxsie Sioux, of the British rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Ortega told NME she binged the video for “Happy House” from the band’s third album Kaleidoscope-and that she may have scrawled a few moves from Siouxsie Sioux for her own number.
“There’s something about Wednesday’s dance where I jump to the left and I have my arms out to the side,” she said, “and that’s something that [Siouxsie] did on stage later in her career.”
With such inspiration (and a family legacy for choreographic excellence) it’s no wonder Wednesday’s high school class was a breeze.