Published on July 2, 2016
“Shall We Dance?” is a show tune from the 1951 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The King and I. It is sung by Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam, played by Gertrude Lawrence (in the original Broadway production) and Yul Brynner respectively. In addition, it was sung by Valerie Hobson in the original London West End production, and Marni Nixon (who only voiced-over songs while Deborah Kerr acted) in the 1956 film of The King and I (1956 film). The song is about Anna reminiscing over the idea of finding love at an English dance. The song comes about after a conflict of love’s meaning between Anna and the King; the King believes that love is a “silly complication of a pleasant simplicity” and a “fairy tale” while Anna believes that love is real and is natural. They then sing the song “The Song of the King” which expresses predominantly the viewpoint of the King. After the song, Anna is trying to explain the idea of love in a simple way to the King and becomes caught up in her own experience of love at first sight which is told in the song “Shall We Dance?”.
The song is most famous for the actual dance between Anna and the King, which is a polka style dance. The King however exaggerates the movements of the dances with more leaping than strides. The dance usually takes up a large part of the stage.
The movie version of the song finished at #54 in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs survey of top tunes in American cinema.
The 1996 Movie, Sharu wi Dansu from Japan was named after the song.