Dancing in the Movies: STEP UP

STEP UP: A CULTURAL PHENOMENON AND THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME

When the first Step Up movie first hit the big screen, no one anticipated just how big it would become in the following decade. Back in 2006, when Bush was in office, the iPod 5G was only $250 (and it played videos!), and the Xbox 360 had just been released, we watched as bad boy Channing Tatum and good girl Jenna Dewan fell in love with each other as they danced into each other’s arms (RIP).

How a choreographer turned director changed a generation:

Anne Fletcher, Choreographer turned first time director, spoke with Cosmopolitan about her experience with Step Up on its 10 year anniversary and how it launched her career and the franchise into teen’s hearts everywhere. After Step Up, Fletcher went on to direct 27 Dresses and The Proposal.

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Anne had always dreamed of becoming a dancer, but her career shifted after meeting Adam Shankman (HairspraySo You Think You Can Dance). Fletcher worked with him on several of his projects as an assistant choreographer before he introduced her to Mr. Erik Feig, who would go on to produce Step Up. Erik was looking for a Director with Choreograph experience, and Adam thought she’d be the perfect fit. Anne met with Feig and the two hit it off. Three hours after they met, she was hired to direct Step Up.

“I hired my friend Jamal Sims to choreograph Channing’s movement. Could I choreograph hip-hop? Absolutely. But we really wanted [Channing’s dances] to have a different flair, a different tone, a different identity from all of the other dance in the film. Jamal did that, I did everything else. I got to go back to my roots — ballet, tap, modern, jazz. Everything I grew up learning in a school environment. I didn’t actually go to one of those fancy dance schools, that wasn’t something we could afford, but my mom still got me to classes.”

 IMDB Photo by Phillip Caruso – © Buena Vista Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

IMDB Photo by Phillip Caruso – © Buena Vista Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

On Casting Channing:

Channing Tatum pretty much fell into their laps. Early on, Anne got a call from Channing’s agent.

“You need to meet this guy. He’s read the script, he identifies with the character, and he knows exactly who this guy is.”

At the initial meeting, Channing started doing some arm choreography at the table and Anne decided in that moment that he was their guy. They had no idea if he could act but he was handsome, charming, and he could dance. Channing trained himself so it was sloppy and messy and looked like he learned from the streets, which was exactly what they wanted.

On Casting Jenna:

Jenna was the VERY last piece and proved to be the very hardest. One of the major factors was that the actors would learn the choreography before they had a chance to act at the auditions. Since the movie was going to be extremely dance oriented, it was important to cast someone who could do all of her own dancing. Jenna walked in and danced exactly the way they had envisioned. They did a run through with Channing and it was a perfect match.

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The movie and dancing:

Channing’s background as a go-go dancer provided a completely different level to his character’s dancing. It was already in his DNA and it just naturally came out. Anne was also very adamant about Channing not taking off his shirt in any of the scenes, as she didn’t want to exploit him or bury his dancing ability and she wanted him to stay as true to his character as possible.

“He was truly self-taught. He’s not going to be polished like kids who went to an art school”

Step Up went on to make more than $65 million after only shooting with a budget of $12 million. It also went on to be the start of one of the most loved dance franchises of all time. It still lives on in our hearts and as a guilty pleasure (don’t deny it..) more than 10 years later.

 
steph segler