When the first Step Up film was released back in 2006, it joined a legacy of street dance films that captivated audiences throughout the early 2000s; Honey (2003) and Save the Last Dance (2001) being two of its iconic predecessors. Director, Anne Fletcher, wanted to breathe new life into the genre, and with a new film released every two years – the latest instalment coming to our screens in the UK on Friday – she seems to have achieved just that. The general response to the films has been positive, and the popularity of the franchise has grown with each release. But a closer look at the reviews, especially of the latest addition, will tell you that it is not the plot lines that sell them; it is, of course, the amazing choreography that has sparked inspiration in a whole new generation of dancers.
The choreography in the Step Up films has become iconic, first and foremost because it fuses a multitude of styles together and makes them work seamlessly, incorporating ballet with hip hop, contemporary with classic. This enables the creators to bring together characters from a variety of backgrounds, and as a plot device, can be useful in showing character development over time – it is usually where the films’ various romantic entanglements are founded. But it also makes the franchise far more complex than other street dance films which only focus on one particular genre. Switching between different styles and smoothly transitioning between them sends out the message that dancing is not rigid; just because you specialise in a particular style it does not mean that elements and techniques of other styles are not relevant to you. It also asserts the fact that one does not have to limit themselves to one path; a point which can resonate strongly with younger viewers who are likely to be thinking about what they might want to do with their lives. Alongside this comes an equally varied soundtrack, which compliments the action perfectly and has featured a range of popular and respected artists, as well as newer and less well known ones, over the years. As the popularity and budget of the series has grown, so has the level of creativity; the end of year dance show that marked the finale of the first film was raved about eight years ago, but the finale of the fifth film – a nine minute routine in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas – has set a whole new standard for the franchise, with its jaw-dropping complexity and originality.
The films consistently reiterate the fundamental message that hard work and persistence can result in success, regardless of your background, and this has resonated with audiences over the years. It is difficult to definitively assert if there has been an increase in the formation of street dance groups because of the films, but there has been far more coverage of various groups and competitions and their success, possibly because the market for them has been reasserted. In 2010, the UK released its own version of the franchise with ‘Street Dance’, which was released in 3D and a sequel was made soon after. There have also been a couple of street dance groups appearing on shows such as Britain’s Got Talent; Diversity won the competition in 2009, and Flawless reached the finals of the same year, which have been instrumental in inspiring more people to get involved, especially as a lot of the members of these groups have worked on involving young people with dance.
All in all, regardless of how well Step Up All In is received, the franchise will remain popular because of the success it has gathered so far. And with more and more people eager to push their creativity in order to replicate or even exceed the phenomenal choreography shown in the films, it is likely that this genre is here to stay for the foreseeable future.