From Channing Tatum in tights to street battles in the rain and 3D dance scenes, the Step Up franchise continues to change the way the general public views dance, particularly hip-hop. Step Up Revolution is sticking to this tradition with the help of choreographer Christopher Scott and lead actor/dancer Misha Gabriel. Both men are hot commodities in the commercial dance world today.
Scott is probably most recognized for his bold and intricate work on So You Think You Can Dance, which includes last week’s Mad Men-inspired top 20 group piece for season nine. He is also the co-choreographer of the first online dance adventure, The LXD: The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. The LXD has performed live for SYTYCD, the Glee Tour and the 82nd Annual Oscars.
Gabriel got his first professional gig dancing for Aaron Carter when he was 17. Since then he has worked with artists such as Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and many more. In 2009 he got the opportunity to dance with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, on the This Is It tour and can be seen featured in the documentary. “Step Up Revolution” marks Gabriel’s transition into the world of acting.
TheaterJones and other local media got to sit down with Christopher Scott and Misha Gabriel at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas this week to discuss their dance backgrounds, greatest inspirations and of course “Step Up Revolution” which opens in theaters July 27.
TheaterJones: How did you guys get involved with this project?
Misha Gabriel: I auditioned for the lead role of Eddy, and I connected with the part immediately and landed the role.
Christopher Scott: I flew myself out to audition for Step Up 2 and Jon Chu cast me in the role of Hair and from then we all became friends. From there I got my choreography career started by roasting Miley Cyrus online and then through Jamal Sims I later got to choreograph for her. So, when Step Up 4 came out Jon, Jamal and Scott Speer asked me if I wanted to come and choreograph and I was like “Yeah!”
Did you know a lot of the dancers that worked on the film?
Scott: Misha and I have known each other for years. He was always that young prodigy kid. I remember looking at him and thinking, “man this kid’s crazy.” But this was the first time we actually got to work together.
Gabriel: That was sort of true for a lot of us in the movie. Myself and Twitch, we have admired each other’s careers from afar, and this was the first chance we got to work together.
Step Up 4 was filmed in Miami. How would you describe the dance scene there?
Scott: It’s just such a great dance scene down there. We got to go to Miami and meet this whole new world of dancers I have never met before in my life. Everybody is very passionate about dance and there’s this huge Latin influence in the dance and it was great to work with these young fresh kids that weren’t so deep in the industry as in Los Angeles. A lot of those kids have now moved to LA and are pursuing their dreams.
How did you hone the dancers’ skills to adapt to your style of movement?
Scott: I never really want the dancers to have to adapt to my style. I do love working with very different styles. Throughout my whole career with LXD I always like to take different style and incorporate them with others. In the film I got to choreograph this business plaza mob which had very sharp and precise movements and that’s just my stylistic thing. But these dancers are machines and they rehearse like crazy so, it wasn’t as hard as it might seem to people who don’t train to teach them movement. I was lucky.
Misha how did it feel getting a part in this big franchise?
Gabriel: It was a dream come true. I danced for Michael Jackson and that was sort of the pinnacle of my dance career and it was hard for me to go back to dancing for other artists after that. I sort of hit my peak. So, I was looking for a transition and I have been doing a lot of choreography throughout the years, but I have also been taking acting lessons. My best friend Kenny Wormald sent me to his acting coach and someone put a bug in my ear a few months before the audition that they wanted me to read for the lead. I really felt a connection to the character Eddy and when I found out I booked the role it was like all the planets had aligned.
What has the Step Up franchise done for the hip-hop dance culture?
Scott: Amazing things. The other films are all battle-based and this underground hip-hop world is crazy. When you go into these B-Boy jams and battles it’s a totally different world and you think, “wow, I wish people could see this,” and Step Up was like we will show the world. Jon was going to battles with us before he did Step Up 3 to see this world. So, in a lot of ways the movies are very authentic.
Will there be a final battle in this movie?
Gabriel: No battles. Personally as a dancer I am over it and I know that the dance community is over it as well. This movie is about these underprivileged kids and their use of dance to make something of themselves. At first we use dance as a creative outlet, but as the movie goes on dancing sort of becomes an outlet for creative protest. In the finale we are not battling another dance troupe, we’re sort of revolting against something else. No spoiler alerts. It’s a different take than the other films, but I think it’s just as impactful.
Will we see other dance styles outside of the hip hop realm?
Gabriel: You will also see a lot of new dance styles in the movie. Travis Wall, a choreographer on SYTYCD who also happens to be my roommate, choreographed some contemporary pieces for the movie. It’s really cool.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
Gabriel: Michael Jackson first of all and also my mother. My mom’s a ballet teacher and she taught me everything I know about work ethic and dance. When I moved to LA there were three choreographers who played an important role in my dance career: Brian Friedman, Gil Duldulao and Marty Kudelka.
Scott: Jamal Sims is a big mentor of mine; and also directors who know how to show dance. Choreography in a lot of ways is very similar to directing so, Jon Chu and Scott Speer are also huge mentors. Also the Kenny Ortegas and Adam Shankmans out there who understand dance and get to show it in the most beautiful way. Adam is one of our producers and having a producer who knows dance is rare. It’s rare to have a director and producer who know dance and I think that’s why these movies do so well. They’re real dance movies made by dancers.
◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at www.kddance.wordpress.com
Here's the official trailer for Step Up Revolution:
And here's the cast of Step Up Revolution performing on Ellen: