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A brief history of The Addams Family's dancing and why it is so important to the franchise

From the Wednesday Shuffle to the Mamushka.

Wednesday dancing in Wednesday
Image credit: Netflix

When you think of The Addams Family, things like snapping fingers or looming butlers are probably the first images that come to mind. However, one of the common threads that tie together every adaptation of The Addams Family, all the way back to the original '60s TV show, is something far more mundane than the pseudo-fantastic elements like Thing or even the now-iconic theme song. The Addams Family is brought together by something as simple as dancing.

Every live-action iteration of The Addams Family has used dancing to bring the characters to life. One of the most iconic moments from the '60s show is Lisa Loring’s Wednesday cutting a rug with Lurch in a second-season episode. The 1991 film featured an extended and playfully violent dance called 'The Mamushka' between Gomez and Fester Addams. And the almost detached intensity of Jenna Ortega’s dancing in Netflix’s Wednesday series, where she is doing her own thing on the dancefloor, was the moment that the character felt the most alive and real.

The tradition of Addams Family dances goes back nearly sixty years, not just because it is fun to watch but because it sums up everything that the creepy and kooky family is about. From the very first comic strip by Charles Addams back in the '30s, the Addams Family has been focused on the joy of self-expression. The clan is strange yet unbothered by how others react to them and dancing is the perfect way to embody that.

There is also the way each of these three dances highlights the characters. In a highly-memeable clip from the 1965 show, Loring’s Wednesday is helping the usually stiff Lurch to cut loose in the hopes of winning the heart of a woman. She’s supporting her friend and isn’t worried about how accurate his interpretation of her moves is. She just wants to see him succeed, which is exactly how the Addams Family should be portrayed. Their weirdness is always meant to contrast with the overwhelming wholesomeness of the familiar unit. It doesn't hurt that the girl has some killer moves, of course.

This is similar to how Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday moves, borrowing inspiration from goth and mod dances of the past - plus a brief homage to the Loring dance from the '60s show thrown in - without ever caring about how others might judge her. Let the people stare as she moves around the dancefloor; their opinion doesn't matter as much as the simple act of expressing herself. It is a scene that Ortega choreographed herself, simply letting the music and the character guide her in a strange cacophony of movement that sums up Wednesday Addams remarkably well.

The Mamushka from 1991’s The Addams Family is probably the most explicit in how it sums up the characters and the narrative to that point. It is called the “dance of brotherly love” and consists of repeatedly headbutting, slapping, and throwing knives at each other, yet has a hint of playfulness to remind us that all this comes from a place of love. The Addams Family delight in the macabre and the gruesome yet they are perhaps the most loving and close-knit family in film history.

Netflix seems keen to expand on their Addams Family content in the coming years, with a second season of Wednesday in the works and a potential spin-off with Uncle Fester rumored, which leaves the door open to more dancing and music to help the strangest family in television history show us who they really are. Honestly, if a Fester series doesn’t feature a revival of the Mamushka between Fred Armisen and Luis Guzman, then what even is the point?

Weird is relative, and the iconic comic-turned-tv-turned-movie franchise that is Addams Family is the perfect picture of that. Several of the cast of the '90s movie franchise are coming to Seattle's ECCC 2024, and you can get first dibs on photo ops and autographs and watch their panel for free here at Popverse. You can also get to know Charles Addams' iconic family with our Addams Family watch guide, and stories on how Wednesday's Jenna Ortega thinks her character is "a creepy little freak" and how the Addams family got their names.

Trent Cannon

Trent Cannon: Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)


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