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Origin and Inspiration of the World of Warcraft Dance Emotes

by: Benjamin Sell ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/18/2012 • Leave a comment

Have you ever wondered where the moves of that Night Elf dancing on the mailbox come from? Our rundown of the World of Warcraft dance animations reveals the sources of all your favorite in-game dances.

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    I admit, I’m one of those WoW players who is constantly leaping into his /dance emote anytime there’s a break in the action. It doesn’t matter if I’m about to take down Cyanigosa or defending the flag in Warsong Gulch, I just can’t resist breaking off a few dance moves every chance I get.

    All this dancing action has always made me curious, though. Sometimes, when one of these spontaneous dance frenzies breaks out, many of the moves seem somehow familiar to me. It turns out, in true Blizzard pop culture referencing fashion, many of the in-game /dance emotes have very familiar real-world inspirations. Here’s our rundown of the racial dances and their most likely sources.

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    Draenei Have Moves that are Out of This World

    The male Draenei dance animation is mostly taken from a video by popular Indian recording artist Daler Mehndi. The video is for his song “Tunak Tuank Tun." Almost every in-game move comes from this video, including the fantastic shoulder shaking maneuver and the single arm raising followed by rhythmic clapping.

    The female Draenei seem to have acquired their moves mostly from the singer Shakira. Her belly dancing style, illustrated in the video for her song “Whenever, Wherever" is the most likely inspiration for female’s popular “waggle."

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    Dwarven Dancing has an Multi-Cultural Flair

    Male Dwarves seem to have some Russian in their bloodline, as much of their dance animation comes from traditional Russian Cossack dancing. There is also a hint of John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever" routine as well.

    Female Dwarves have a more Irish slant, as their dance emote is clearly based on Irish step dancing, also known as “Riverdancing," as performed by the infamous “lord of the dance," Michael Flatley.

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    How do Gnomes Get Down?

    Male Gnome Dance   The male gnome’s interesting (and nearly sexually explicit) dance has no clear single inspiration. Parts of the dance may have come from the end of M.C. Hammer’s video for “You Can’t Touch This" (mostly the ending). The thrusting/swatting motion always reminded me of Beavis and Butthead, personally.

    Female Gnomes do a dance that is clearly inspired by salsa dancing, but doesn’t seem to have any one specific source.

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    Dance Like a Human

    Human males have stolen pretty much their entire dance animation from John Travolta’s famous routine on the lighted dance floor in “Saturday Night Fever."

    As bad as impersonating Travolta might be, there is perhaps no dance in the game as lame as that of the Human female. Taken move for move from the mid-90’s embarrassment that is the “Macarena," it’s impossible to watch this dance in action and not get that horrid song stuck in your head. Thanks for that, Blizzard.

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    Night Elves: Exhibitionists of Azeroth

    A Female Night Elf Gets Down   Male Night Elves have perhaps the single coolest dance animation in all of World of Warcraft. I know people who have created NE characters simply to be able to bust out their fantastic dance moves. Their dance comes from Michael Jackson’s iconic “Billie Jean" video routine. Jackson’s reputation may have sullied a bit in recent years, but there’s no denying he was one of the greatest superstars of all time.

    Perhaps the most popular dance in all of Warcraft, the female Night Elf’s dance moves come from French recording artist Alizée. Specifically, the dance comes from a performance of her song "J'en ai marre."

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    Blood Elves are Addicted to Pop Culture, as Well

    Female Blood Elf Moves  

    The inspiration for the Male Blood Elf dance is one of the worst-kept secrets in the World of Warcraft. Their animation is nearly move for move the routine that Napoleon performs in the climactic scene of the film “Napoleon Dynamite."

    Female Blood Elves take their dance from an amalgamation of the routines of Britney Spears, notably a routine she danced for her song “Toxic."

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    Rap Music is Huge in Orgrimmar

    Male Orcs enjoy the music of M.C. Hammer. Their dance animation is culled nearly completely from the video for his song “You Can’t Touch This." Sadly, no moves from his recent gold buying commercials made it into the game.

    The female Orc takes her dance moves from the video for the song “Back That Azz Up," by Juvenile.

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    Taurens: You Will Believe a Cow Can Dance

    A cow who stands on two legs is not the most graceful of creatures, and the Tauren racial dance moves reflect this lack of coordination. The male Tauren dance seems to be an amalgamation of internet meme “Peanut Butter Jelly Time," (famously parodied on Family Guy) the noodle dance, and the classic “Raise the Roof" dance move.

    Female Tauren have it even worse, as their dance is based on classic line dance “The Electric Slide." Ironic, considering that line dancing is usually done by cowboys.

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    Trolling for Dance Inspiration

    Male trolls have taken a page from Wesley Snipes’ book, as their dance moves are mostly inspired by the Brazilian martial art Capoeira, in which Snipes holds a black belt.

    The developers at Blizzard are obviously big fans of Columbian singer Shakira, as the female Troll dance, like that of the female Draenei, seems to have been inspired by the video for “Whenever, Wherever."

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    Undead: Bringing Sexy Back, From the Grave

    A Male Undead Rocks Out   The male Undead dance is a collection of all the classic metal head moves. You’ve got the headbang, the air guitar, and the throwing up of the proverbial horns, all combined with spastic jumping around. It pains me to admit it, but I have performed each of these actions myself on more than one rockin’ occasion.

    Female Undead take their routine from a dance technique known as “Liquid Dancing." Combining fluid movements with elements of “popping," liquid dancing emerged from the rave culture of the 80’s and early 90’s.

    It’s kind of amazing how well Blizzard manages to incorporate so many cultural allusions into every aspect of their games. Somehow, seeing a cow dance the Electric Slide does not seem out of place in a world of swords and sorcery, and that’s a true testament to the skill with which Blizzard weaves their worlds together.