We’ve come a long way since those early days when we first started stepping up at the Maryland School for the Arts. Back then, Tyler Gage was just a kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose hip-hopping ways shook the yuppie confines of Baltimore’s premiere arts academy to their very core.
Now? It’s not just about performance art. It’s about protest art. We miss you Tyler (and Nora and Chase and Andie and Moose, god how we miss Moose), but if the trailer for Step Up: Revolution tells us anything, it’s that the up-steps are about to get very, very real.
And look, this is my number one most anticipated film of the summer. I’ll be reviewing it for the Fast Forward Weekly site (it’ll be up Friday) and will be seeing it again this weekend. But if you’re like me and you’ve followed the franchise since its inception, there’s cause for concern.
While the Step Up movies have always been knowingly absurd, there have been narrative themes which connected each film. By moving Step Up: Revolution to Miami and focusing on a pre-existing dance crew doing battle with Sandy Cohen from The OC’s property development company, there’s a risk that we’ll be getting just another dance movie, and not a real Step Up.
Whether it was the MSA Crew in Step Up 2 the Streets or the Pirates in Step Up: 3D, the series has presented the world of competitive dance as one where race, gender and class were irrelevant. What mattered was what you brought to the dance floor.
In the first film, the poor kids from Tyler’s hood eventually accept the art school students after Mac the gangster reminds them that Tupac, Miles Davis and Mobb Deep were all “art school cats.” In the second, the MSA kids eventually win over the audience at the Streets competition when they take the battle outside — and back onto the streets, where it belongs. The entire point of the third film is that dance crews provide a space where outsiders from all backgrounds feel at home. When Natalie finally betrays her brother Julien and rejoins the Pirates at the World Jam, she tells him “this is my family now.”
That loyalty is something the series has always believed in. Loyalty to friends, loyalty to your crew and loyalty to the people who believe in you. It’s a simple message and I’m sure some would mock it for its simplicity, but I’d mock them right back for being jackasses.
Also, the writers clearly believe that rooftops are the most romantic place a guy can take a girl. If you manage to somehow get silhouetted while on that rooftop, all the better. So full disclosure to any woman I try to woo, if I take you to a rooftop I believe you’re the love of my life. We will dance and stare deeply into each other’s eyes and it will be wonderful.
In all seriousness, the move to Miami and focus on a bigger societal conflict present the risk that the series could be moving away from the values that have always been at its core. Fortunately, there were hints that the series would move in this direction throughout Step Up: 3D. When Moose was trying to get Luke to re-unite the Pirates, he said “One move can change a generation.”
This is a series that’s always believed in the transformative power of dance. It’s believed that dance — and by extension, art in general — can cause people to set aside their differences and work together (unless you’re a member of the 410 or the Samurais, in which case you’re just a prick) towards a common goal.
Does the move to the more exotic southern location feel organic? Maybe not. But leaving Baltimore for New York had me feeling apprehensive about Step Up: 3D as well. The main plotline may take us away from what we’re used to, but the trailer has so many of the series’ staples that I’m feeling optimistic. The media still inexplicably treats flash mobs as a threat to public safety. One of the leads is still being introduced to a world they never knew existed, but where they might just finally feel at home. And the dancing? This is a Step Up movie guys, we all know it’s going to incredible.
Also, according to IMDb, Moose is making a cameo. Moose! That’s really all I needed to know.
This series has gotten progressively better with each film. Its last incarnation featured what I would argue is the single best use of non-animated 3D in history. As long as it stays true to the series’ thematic roots and serves up the creatively-filmed choreography we’ve all come to expect, then holy crap guys it’s time for a new Step Up movie!
It doesn’t get much better than that.