The fourth instalment in the Step Up movie series has Subhadra Devan moving to its infectious beats
STARTING with the 2006 debut of Step Up, producers Jennifer Gibgot and Adam Shankman have created a series of popular hip-hop fairytales that blend the latest street dance with a romance.
But let’s face it: It’s the dancing that carries the Step Up franchise. Astonishing choreography. Gravity-defying production numbers. Talented, red-hot young performers. And then, there is the hip and cool music. Jennifer Lopez has a thumping song, Going In (featuring Flo Rida), in the movie, along with Fergie with Feel Alive (featuring Pitbull), and M.I.A (Bad Girls), among others.
In Step Up Revolution, the fourth film in the series, Gibgot and Shankman have pulled out all the stops for the story of a daring and innovative group of performance artists called The Mob.
The Mob blends music, dance, visual arts and cutting-edge technology in extravagant flash mob performances. “We all gravitated to the notion of the flash mob,” says executive producer Matt Smith, in a Nusantara Edaran Filem Press release.
“Flash mobs are so much of the moment in our culture right now. People are doing it in the streets, but I don’t think anybody has ever done them on this scale with top flight dancers and choreography.”
Emily (Kathryn McCormick) arrives in Miami with a dream of becoming a professional dancer.
She falls for Sean (Ryan Guzman) who leads a dance crew in cutting-edge flash mobs, called “The Mob”. Then, there is Eddy (Misha Gabriel, Footloose), Sean’s childhood friend, who is enraged when he learns that Emily is the daughter of the powerful real-estate developer threatening to destroy his home.
When Emily’s father, Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher), starts in on his plans, Emily joins Sean and The Mob to turn their performance art into protest art.
Guzman, a 24-year-old from Texas from the World Of Mixed Martial Arts, had never danced professionally before.
The filmmakers were impressed by his audition, but they weren’t sure if he could handle the challenging choreography.
“He walked in the door with incredible charisma,” says Smith. “Other people were flying in from tours with Rihanna and Britney Spears to audition, and here’s this Mixed Martial Arts fighter who never danced before.”
But Guzman defied expectations with a mixture of grit, determination and natural ability. “Every choreographer he worked with said that either he had danced in a past life or he was snowing everybody, because he picked it up so brilliantly,” says Gibgot. “Ryan turned out to be a natural.”
Guzman says: “I was a little shaky when I saw all the professional dancers in their element, but I pushed past the fear.”
DANCER TO ACTRESS
From being a finalist on the Fox television series, So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), the Georgia-born McCormick landed a small role in the remake of Fame, which starred another SYTYCD alumni Kherington Payne.
For McCormick, “telling stories through dance is similar to acting”.
Taking dance into the streets of a city makes Step Up Revolution different from the earlier films. Says Smith: “We go outdoors in front of huge crowds, instead of the club setting you’ve seen in earlier films.”
Filmed entirely in the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, Step Up Revolution takes full advantage of South Florida’s unique and visually arresting locations, from the ultra-modern skyline and iconic palm trees to the gritty, colourful ethnic neighbourhoods and serene beaches.
“Step Up Revolution is a love story set among the haves and have-nots of Miami,” Gibgot says.
“Miami has an extremely wealthy population, as well as some of the most fabulous luxury hotels in the world. It’s an aspirational American city, a place where people experience wealth and glamour and excitement. In the movie, we see the contrast in the lives of the people who stay in those hotels and the people who actually live in Miami and serve them.”
DANCE AND JOY
Award-winning director Scott Speers’ passion for dance was one factor that made him the ideal director for Step Up Revolution.
Says Speer: “I believe everyone is naturally a dancer. And every style of dance is really about communicating.
The Mob blends many different styles of movement into their flash mobs, including non-dance styles like parkour, which incorporates vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping. I don’t think anyone has brought all of these different aesthetics together in a film.”
By juxtaposing the different styles, Speer believes that he not only shows how well they can work together, he also emphasises the individual strength of each discipline. “That’s when you can best understand how universal dance is, which is one of the most powerful ideas in this movie.”
The energy and audacity needed to create a flash mob drove his vision, he says.
“It’s an aggressive and liberating form of expression, which is a relatable concept for a lot of young people. You just go into a place, and while everyone else is concerned with their lunch or their work or getting where they are going, you remind them that they could break into dance at any time. And dance is about joy. Life is about joy.”
Step Up Revolution opens on Aug 2 in Malaysia.