It used to be that dancing and acting went rather hand-in-hand in Hollywood. During the heyday of the musicals in the 1940s and 50s, the need for actresses to sing and dance was a necessity and the likes of Cyd Charisse, Ginger Rogers and Ann Miller were among the biggest names to mix this together. As the musical faded in popularity, you didn’t see as much crossover, dancers more inclined to move onto Broadway. However, there’s still some who are able to move from dance to acting quite well. It’s still performing after all and dancers often have to emote far better with less words and get the message across well. It thus makes sense so many are able to move onto acting gigs and many looking quite hot to boot.
They run the range from gals who were professional dancers to those who had a start there but circumstances (injury the most likely cause) shifted their dreams. In either case, they’re fantastic knockouts, many award winning stars and can still break out the dance moves if need be. No matter the case, their dance backgrounds add something special to them, not just in the obvious flexibility but also their great talent and allure. Here are 15 hot actresses with major dance backgrounds and shows how moving from one field to the other can lead to great success.
15 Sutton Foster
Sutton Foster’s career is like a Broadway musical plot come to life. Born in Georgia and raised in Michigan, Foster got into dancing early on, showing great promise and soon integrating it into her drama classes with an interest in musical theater. After various background dance bits in some musicals and a run as Epione in Les Miserables, Foster was cast as the understudy in 2001’s Thoroughly Modern Millie. When the original Millie had to bow out, Foster took the role and her performance made her an instant star, winning a Tony Award. Over the next decade, Foster racked up another four nominations for various Broadway shows like Shrek and Young Frankenstein and won a second Tony for Anything Goes.
In 2012, Foster was cast in the lead of the ABC Family series Bunheads, playing a dancer turned Vegas showgirl who becomes the instructor for a dance troupe in a quirky town. It showed Foster’s great comic timing alongside her fantastic dance moves and won over critics and a cult following. Sadly, it ended after only one season but Foster has bounced back with the TV Land hit, Younger, playing a woman who pretends to be in her 20s for a job. Foster makes it work thanks to her gorgeous looks, very hot as she hooks up with a younger man and while this show hasn’t given as much chance for her dance moves, Foster’s beauty and humor show her off as one of the best Broadway to TV success stories around.
14 Amy Adams
Growing up an Army brat, moving from base to base, Amy Adams had little time to put down any roots and turned to the arts to cope, showing off a great singing voice. She also began training in dance, spending years learning ballet. However, Adams decided she just couldn’t cope with the overwhelming pressures of dance enough to become a ballerina and so moved to musical theatre. Roles in the likes of Catch Me If You Can and Junebug led to her rise before truly becoming a star as the musical princess in Enchanted. Adams has gone on to earn five Oscar nominations but still balancing it with fun stuff like musical numbers in The Muppets and a run in a Central Park production of Into the Woods. The gorgeous redhead can carry a tune and a dance with ease to balance her dramatic chops and always be a showcase in any role she takes on.
13 Stacy Keibler
True, her acting credits aren’t as notable as others but when you talk of crossover success for dancers, you have to include Stacy Keibler. From the age of three, Keibler was taking lessons in jazz, ballet and tap dancing and as she grew, her sensational 42-inch legs afforded her some fantastic moves. A cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens, Keibler became a fitness model and then hired to WCW as a Nitro Girl. That led to her role as “Miss Hancock” that made the last year of the company a bit more watchable. In WWE, her love for dance in skimpy outfits made her a hit, working various angles and terrific with her bouncing moves and those legs on full display to become one of the most popular Divas on the roster. Since leaving WWE, she had a good run on Dancing With the Stars and roles on shows like Samurai Girl and Chuck that showcase her beauty. She also got major attention with her relationship with George Clooney and between her long blonde hair and those stunning stems, Keibler is a gal who can still put on a fantastic dance routine to get you going.
12 Neve Campbell
With a large family in Canada, Neve Campbell caught a production of The Nutcracker at the age of six and instantly decided ballet was her new love. After training at various ones at a young age, she moved into residence at the National Ballet School of Canada, taking part in various productions. However, the stress of the work and demanding teachers led to a variety of injuries as well as a full-scale nervous breakdown and Campbell decided acting would be far less dangerous for her mental health. Moving to acting, Campbell exploded to fame with her roles in Party of Five and Scream and leading to her great success. She showed more of her dance moves in the musical Reefer Madness and while she sticks to more character roles, her bright smile and smooth legs showcases that old dance form that adds to her allure.
11 Jennifer Garner
Unlike others on this list, Jennifer Garner never planned a career as a dancer. Growing up in a blue-collar family, she began training in ballet at three and continued for another decade but only to learn more of performing and serve as an outlet. She wanted to be a doctor but gave acting a try and found a natural bug for it, doing various TV shows and movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? In 2001 came her star-making role in Alias as Garner has cited ballet as helping her prepare for the show’s various martial arts sequences and even doing some dancing now and then as cover for Sydney. She also worked a great dance sequence into her hit comedy 13 Going on 30 and while motherhood has slowed some of her film stuff down, Garner still ranks among the hottest ladies around and her dance background leading to one of the sexiest spies TV has ever seen.
10 Zoe Saldana
After growing up in New Jersey, Zoe Saldana moved to the Dominican Republic at the age of nine where she got into dancing. Drawn to ballet, she still studied various forms but decided ballet was too rigid for her tastes and “I didn’t have the feet for it.” Moving back to New York, Saldana became part of the FACES theater group, doing musicals based on real-life issues for teens that got her attention. This got her cast in Center Stage, the drama about rising dancers that marked her major film debut. After a few forgettable films, Saldana was launched to a sci-fi smash with Avatar, Star Trek and Guardians of the Galaxy, showcasing her fantastic body, often in tight outfits and showcasing her sexy allure. She’s about to play famed singer Nia Simone and that tight form shows off how Saldana’s love of performance at a young age carries today.
9 Amy Acker
With her Texas twang, Amy Acker always stands out, combined with her long dark hair and piercing eyes. Growing up in Dallas, she spent 13 years studying dance, mostly ballet, allowing her to get limbered up and her small size helped her dance form out. Coming across Joss Whedon, she was cast as Fred on Angel, winning fans over with her transition from geek girl to (literally) a goddess on the series, her body fitting in well with her leather costume late in the series. Acker has gone on for various shows like Alias and Dollhouse and most recently, the nutty hacker Root on the acclaimed Person of Interest. Indeed, a recent episode had Root going undercover as a ballerina to save a Russian diplomat and strangling a guy while in a tutu. In any role, Acker shows herself as a “hot geek gal” and those legs still able to break out some nice dance moves.
8 Catherine Zeta-Jones
Born and raised in Wales, Catherine Zeta-Jones was a hyperactive kid so her mom thought ballet school might tone her down a bit. She was helped by her family winning a small fortune to finance her ballet dreams and by the age of 11, was a national tap dancing champion. Moving to London, she became a regular presence on the stage, including a two-year run in 42nd Street that packed in crowds. After a few rough film roles, Zeta-Jones rocketed to success in The Mask of Zorro, mixing sword-fighting with a scorching flamenco number. Various roles like Entrapment followed before Zeta-Jones was able to use her old experience to the fullest in Chicago. Her fantastic musical numbers as a murderess stole the movie and won her the Oscar. She also showed them off in a fun dance number hosting Saturday Night Live and while her screen work has faded in the last few years, Zeta-Jones still looks hot as hell and with great legs.
7 Julianne Hough
Every year brings some mocking of the “star” power of Dancing With the Stars but the pro dancers on the show always do their best to help out. Julianne Hough was one of the first and her background helped out, training young and starting to dance competitively at nine. Soon training in ballet, jazz, tap and other styles, Julianne (with brother Derek) took to it well with her limber legs and bright attitude. Her work on Stars has highlighted her great style in a variety of costumes, a two-time winner and even enduring abdominal pains mid-performance but keeping on. She left the main dancing but maintains connections to the show, winning an Emmy for its choreography and returning as a judge. She’s also taken off as a singing star and in movies like Burlesque (where her dance moves were naturally on full display) along with Footloose and Rock of Ages. Not even 30 yet, Hough has what it takes to keep her career smoking along well and a bigger star than any of her partners.
6 Caity Lotz
A self-professed tomboy growing up, Caity Lotz was into martial arts but also intrigued by modern dancing and with her good looks and blonde hair, she was a natural when she auditioned for music videos. Soon, Lotz was appearing in ones by Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Faith Evans, and served as a backup dancer on Gaga’s tour along with Avril Lavigne. She segued into acting with a Bring it On sequel and a role on Mad Men as Don Draper’s niece before a main role on the short-lived MTV series Death Valley. That soon led to her most famous role as Sara Lance aka the Black Canary on the hit Arrow and Lotz winning fans over, especially when it was revealed Sara was bisexual. The outrage when the character was killed off was so huge, producers brought her back to life for a role on the spin-off Legends of Tomorrow. Integrating her dance background into her martial arts, Lotz is a fantastic figure on the show and proving herself as an icon beyond just dancing.
5 Sarah Hay
For their Starz drama Flesh and Bone, the producers came up with the idea of casting real ballet dancers rather than teach actors how to fake it. Thus, when you see them showing off their moves as well as the agony ballet stars go through with bloody feet and hurt ankles to endure their craft. Hay grew up in an artistic family (her brother is an opera singer) and began dancing at three, attending the School of American Ballet at only eight. Sarah Hay decided to go pro, basically cutting off all other pursuits in order to achieve her goal of making it in the ballet world. She performed in Dresden before being cast in Flesh where she’s impressed critics with her great performance as a dancer thrust into a lead role. This being Starz, Hays strips down a lot, including scenes of her character at a men’s club, her lush red hair and ample bosom showing her fantastic form off in new ways. She’s actually said her size DD breasts had her labeled as “a fat girl” in dance circles but on TV, they come off spectacular and show that Hay has got slews of great form in any sexy setting.
4 Charlize Theron
Overcoming a rough childhood in South Africa, Charlize Theron figured a dance career was ahead of her, studying for several years in various forms, including ballet and attention the National School of the Arts. After posing as a model to earn money, Theron moved to New York to attend the Joffrey Ballet School and was rising up when she injured her knee, ending her dancing dreams. A chance argument at a coffee shop led to her debut in 2 Days in the Valley which showed her talent and willingness to doff her clothes in most of her roles. After becoming a sex symbol, Theron rocked critics with her stunning turn in Monster that won her the Oscar. She doesn’t do as much to show her dance moves but Theron’s bad-ass qualities (as shown in Mad Max Fury Road) show that dancers can be a lot grittier than you’d think.
3 Summer Glau
With her petite body and china-doll features, Summer Glau seems born to have been a ballerina. Indeed, she spent most of her life being home-schooled to accommodate her ballet training in Texas, trained in classic ballet as well as flamenco dancing but a broken toe ended up marring her long-term career plans. Moving to acting, Glau played a ballerina for an episode of Angel and impressed Joss Whedon so much that he cast her as River in the sci-fi cult series Firefly. Since then, Glau has become a geek icon with numerous roles in series like Dollhouse, The 4400 and more. She played the Terminator Cameron on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles with one episode having Cameron go undercover as a dancer to get close to a target. While small in size, Glau makes up for it with a good attitude, incredibly hot in her action scenes and amazingly limber when the circumstances call for it. From dancer to a geek icon, Summer always brings the heat to her roles.
2 Penelope Cruz
With her fantastic figure and lush accent, you’d think acting would have been the obvious choice for Penelope Cruz. Instead, Cruz was fascinated by dance as a child and spent nine years training in classical ballet at Spain’s National Conservatory. However, acting soon got her attention, particularly the works of famed Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. Her film debut in Jamon, Jamon got huge attention with her topless scenes but also her talent. She soon worked with Almodovar for Open Your Eyes which launched her to fame not just by performance but her now-classic nude scenes. Cruz has since become a major star, winning an Oscar and continues to balance Hollywood work with films in her homeland. She was able to put her past dance experience to good use in the musical movie Nine as her lingerie-clad number was the highlight of the film and earned her another Oscar nomination. While acting led to Cruz’s success, that stunning body was also great for dance as well.
1 Jennifer Lopez
In Living Color kicked off several careers like the Wayans Brothers, Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey. But it was also the first major exposure of a young dancer by the name of Jennifer Lopez, part of the “Fly Girls” who would do dance routines in between sketches. For a few years after the show, Lopez bounced around doing dancing for other acts while showing her growing sexuality. In 1997, she was cast as the slain singing star in Selena and instantly became a star herself. Since then, of course, Lopez has gone on to conquer every field of entertainment she’s tried with various hit movies, sell-out records and currently the hit NBC drama Shades of Blue. At 46, she looks as hot and sexy as ever, able to rock a skimpy dress on stage and can still pull off killer dance moves. Jenny From the Block remains one of the hottest women alive and how a dancer can rise to superstardom very well.
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