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Julia Stiles and Chloe Fineman Saved the Last Dance on Weekend Update

Chloe Fineman tapped Julia Stiles to demonstrate why the 2001 movie's iconic hip-hop ballet audition dance is "the perfect gift this season."

By Samantha Vincenty

Julia Stiles's 2001 romantic drama Save the Last Dance is mainly remembered for one enduring scene. A scene that's indelible in the memories of kids who came of age in the early 2000s, and has remained a sight to behold in thousands of memes and TikToks since. As SNL cast member Chloe Fineman explained to "Weekend Update" anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che, it's the dance that Stiles's character, Sara, performs as her audition for the Julliard School in the film's climax.

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The awkward, hip-hop-informed ballet routine is as painfully earnest and delightfully hard to watch more than 20 years later. As Fineman tells Jost and Che, learning and performing the "sexy" dance for your sweetie is "the perfect holiday gift this year."

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Tearing off a Mrs. Claus-ish robe, Fineman revealed a black leotard and warmup pants like that of Stiles's character, as she launched into a performance of stiff-armed choreo mixed with rushed, half-hearted ballet moves. 

"Sorry," Jost interrupted. "You think this is a sexy dance to give your partner?"

"Don't you?!" Fineman replied.

"Basically, Julia Stiles's character Sara is an uptight ballerina who auditions to get into Juilliard, but doesn't get in. And then her mom on the same day dies in a car crash," Fineman exposited between breathless, herky-jerky leaps and thrusts. 

"Okay, so where does the street element come in?" Jost asked, echoing the confusion of everyone who has watched the scene out of context online since. 

"Colin, c'mon—Sara moves to the South Side of Chicago and goes to a more urban high school where she learns hip-hop," Che chimed in.

"She gets another audition, and her crush Derek skips a drive-by shooting to come support her," Fineman adds, still dancing. Devon Walker takes on the role of Stiles's costar Sean Patrick Thomas here, giving a nod of approval with his jacket slung over his shoulder. 

"So...does she get into Juilliard?" Jost asked.

"YES!" Julia Stiles, the original Save the Last Dance-r herself, ran to join Fineman in a matching getup. "You didn't see the last part of the dance."

Julia Stiles and Chloe Fineman dance during weekend update on SNL episode 1851

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"Hit it," Fineman said, as the two grabbed chairs to deliver the dance's big finish.

Fineman's master impression skills clearly extend to physical comedy, and for Stiles, resuming the moves seems to be like riding a bike: You never forget. 

Watch Julia Stiles's Save the Last Dance performance

If you've somehow never seen the original Save the Last Dance audition scene, you're in for a treat—watch above. 

Released in 2001, Save the Last Dance follows white transfer student Sara (Julia Stiles) and her Black boyfriend Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas) when they meet in high school in Chicago. Because the movie focuses on the interracial couple navigating their differences, the dance that Stiles's Sara performs is meant to capture the blend of influences she's grappling with. Results are mixed, yet it's still a highly-watchable spectacle today.