Jenna Ortega’s Dance Scene in ‘Wednesday’ Is the Moment the Show Becomes Great

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Courtesy of Netflix
If we're being honest, Netflix's Wednesday has been kind of blah for much of its run - monotonous, unimaginative, and just a little too keen on borrowing concepts we've seen before. But give it four episodes (I know, I know) and you at least get to witness one of the best crazy dance scenes TV has done in a while. In an explosion of flailing arms, high kicks and piercing stares, Jenna Ortega gives Wednesday (and Wednesday) an unforgettable school dance.
What name did the Nevermore Academy prom choose? The Rave'N Dance, of course. Our lady in black dresses and pigtails has little interest in the party, but ends up having a date outside her door anyway, thanks to a little interference from her favorite disembodied hand, Thing. (Thing also snags her a dress for the occasion with the "five fingers discount.")
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The stage is set from the start for a set piece. The Rave 'N Dance, like most school dances shown on TV, looks way more expensive than a typical high school prom. From the icy blue lighting to the gleaming white accoutrements, this dance has flair. And then in marches Wednesday, date in tow, in a surprisingly fluffy (still collared) dress. Cue "Goo Goo Muck" by The Cramps.
At that precise moment, Wednesday — a series that despite Tim Burton often feels starved for flashiness — finally begins to work. (At least as long as Jenna Ortega is waving her arms.)
But let's discuss some of these dance moves. At times Ortega's movements telegraph "corpse bride"; Her arms and neck are dangling like a marionette. Then she'll stretch out an arm on her Onyx tour with Britney Spears freshness, albeit at an angle that, again, might make her look dead. The camerawork on these shots only adds to the magic - she levitates at one point to capture the piercing gaze on Ortega's face as she tosses her head back to the music.
Wednesday's attendance at Rave 'N Dance may have been an unexpected turn of events for her peers, but the Addams Family actually has a rich dancing history. The original series had several episodes in which various characters attempted to teach Lurch - Frankenstein's monster-like minion best known for moaning "You rang the bell?" - how to groove. First it's Gomez and Morticia in Season 1, and then Wednesday Lurch offers another lesson in Season 2.
And who could forget The Addams Family Values' Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia's hilarious, near-fatal tango that gave a whole new meaning to the words "fire on the dance floor"?
It's nice to see Wednesday continuing this time-honored 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 ill with COVID.
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"I'm not a dancer," Ortega told NME, and I'm sure that's obvious." She said she received the song about a week before filming began. However, on the morning of filming, she said she woke up feeling "like I'd been hit by a car and like a little goblin had been let loose in my throat and scratched the walls of my esophagus."
Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams.
Vlad Cipolea/Netflix
The production gave Ortega medication between takes, she told NME, while they waited for a positive COVID test result. (MGM, which produces Wednesday, told NME that "strict COVID protocols were followed and Jenna was removed from the set after confirming the positive test.") Although Ortega believes she could have executed the scene better had she been healthy there was no time to reshoot the dance.
The good news is, she kills it anyway. A source of inspiration? Siouxsie Sioux, from the British rock band Siouxsie and the Banshees. Ortega told NME that she bit the video for "Happy House" from the band's third album, Kaleidoscope — and that she might have copied a few moves from Siouxsie Sioux for her own number.
"There's a little bit in the Wednesday dance where I hop to the left and have my arms out to the sides," she said, "and that's something [Siouxsie] did later in her career on stage."
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With such inspiration (and a family legacy of choreographic excellence), it's no wonder that wowing the high school class on Wednesday was a breeze.
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Jenna Ortega
American actress

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