Step Up 2
Step Up 2 In Theaters
Oh, and if you wondered how Robert Hoffman would compare to Channing Tatum in the twink department - have a look at the exclusive "Step Up 2" photos - below...
STARRING: Robert Hoffman, Briana Evigan, Cassie, Telisha Shaw
DIRECTOR: Jon Chu
STUDIO: Touchstone Pictures
RATING: PG-13 (For language, adult situations)
Wild About Movies Grade: C-
"Step Up 2"
Behind The Scenes
The follow-up to the smash box-office hit STEP UP takes the story of urban street-dancing to the next stage with an electrifying new story of bodies, hearts and dreams in motion. Rebellious newcomer Andie (BRIANA EVIGAN) is an outcast trying to fit in at the elite Maryland School of the Arts while still holding on to her old dream of dancing with an underground Baltimore street crew. The school’s hottest talent Chase (ROBERT HOFFMAN) is a rising star who’s looking to break out of his mold – by forming a crew to compete in Baltimore’s biggest, most raw street dancing battle, “The Streets.” Now, as Chase joins forces with Andie, the two simultaneously clash and sizzle, sending Andie’s two worlds into collision. With the pressure heating up on the dance floor and in her life, she must learn to build a bridge between love and loyalty, between freedom and opportunity, between who she is and who she believes she can be.
Driven by hypnotic dance, music and break-out performances like its predecessor; "Step Up 2" features the directorial debut of up-and-comer Jon M. Chu. With an exciting cast of youthful newcomers, many of whose personal stories of rough-hewn talent and hard-won achievement mirror their characters in the film, the film also reunites much of the production team behind the original film, including STEP UP’s cutting-edge hip-hop choreographer Jamal Sims, who is joined this time by leading choreographers Nadine “Hi Hat” Ruffin (dubbed “hip-hop’s high diva of dance”) and Dave Scott (“Stomp the Yard”). Patrick Wachsberger & Erik Feig of Summit Entertainment produce with Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot of Offspring Entertainment. The executive producers are Bob Hayward, David Nicksay, Anne Fletcher, and Meredith Milton. The screenplay is written by Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna, based on characters created by Duane Adler.
The film stars a multi-talented cast who performed all their own dancing including Briana Evigan, Robert Hoffman (“She’s The Man,” “You Got Served”), and Will Kemp (“Van Helsing”). Also starring is singer/model/actress Cassie Ventura, Sonja Sohn, Adam G. Sevani, Telisha Shaw, Danielle Polanco and Black Thomas, along with a supporting cast of gifted street dancers discovered in extensive auditions, with many making their feature film debuts.
Accompanied by a soundtrack to be released on Atlantic Records, "Step Up 2" features wall-to-wall rap, hip-hop and R&B, including the smash hit “Low” by Flo Rida featuring T-Pain, plus new singles and videos from T-Pain, Missy Elliott, Enrique Iglesias, Trey Songz featuring Plies, Plies featuring Akon, Cassie, Cherish featuring Yung Joc and more.
FROM THE STAGE BACK TO THE STREETS:
STEPPING UP TO A FRESH, NEW STORY
In the summer of 2006, theatergoers were ignited by STEP UP, a hip-hop fairy-tale that combined the heated rhythms of street dance and music with the story of a boy and a girl at an elite performing arts academy risking everything for each other and their dreams of dancing. At once rousing and romantic, the film, directed by Anne Fletcher and starring Channing Tatum, was a runaway instant hit at the box office grossing over $20 million in its opening weekend.
The success was so resounding, there was talk right away of a follow-up, but the producers who had set the first film into motion – Patrick Wachsberger and Erik Feig of Summit Entertainment and Offspring Entertainment’s Adam Shankman and Jennifer Gibgot – didn’t want to just tack a story onto STEP UP’s fable-like ending. Instead, they made the decision to take an entirely fresh look at their setting – Baltimore’s performing arts mecca for teens, the Maryland School of the Arts (MSA) – and create an even more dynamic experience for audiences who were captivated by STEP UP’s combo of compelling drama and cutting-edge dance numbers.
If STEP UP was the story of how a young dancer made it from the streets to the stage, with "Step Up 2" the filmmakers turn the tale around. The new story digs deep into the fairy tale’s roots, taking MSA students from the polished halls of their school back into the heart of Baltimore’s ultra-creative underground dance scene. In the gray zone between these two seemingly disparate worlds, they’ll face the conflicts of love, ambition and loyalty that will help them become the young men and women they want to be in life.
With a new slate of dance films, including Shankman’s acclaimed 2007 hit “Hairspray,” heating up the screen – and an increasing American fascination with the thrills and expressiveness of dance competitions – there was an imperative to give the new film its own electrifying style and sense of authentic storytelling.
The producers recruited a young but already promising director to helm the project: Jon M. Chu – a 2004 graduate of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and a former dancer himself who had won numerous awards for a series of short films (“Silent Beats,” “While the Kids Were Away,” and “Gwai Lo” [“The Little Foreigner”]) that drew acclaim and attention with their unique mix of sharp storytelling and innovative choreography.
Chu had just the energy the filmmakers were seeking. Recalls producer Jennifer Gibgot, “When Jon came in he already had so many original, unique ideas. He was ready to show off all his assets – his love of dance, his inventiveness and, most of all, his passion for storytelling.”
Adds executive producer David Nicksay, “Jon was trained as a dancer himself, and more than anything else, he understands the culture of the streets. He gets what’s going on with the people who feel they have to dance no matter what else is happening in their lives. He understands what makes individual dancers motivated and also, what makes dance movies great.”
Right away, Chu put a new spin on STEP UP 2 THE STREETS, pushing it out of the school rehearsal halls and into the down-trodden, often invisible urban neighborhoods where an illicit battle known as “The Streets” is waged between dance crews hoping to dominate this hidden, underground world. His aim was to give the film a whole new feeling – an edgier, more aggressive posture, yet with just as much humanity and hope as the first film.
“I wanted to step things up a notch because the dance in the first movie was so beautiful. This time, we wanted to use a different, grittier style, taking it out to the streets, where we could incorporate a lot more diversity of movement, everything from tap to double dutch, to salsa, to popping, locking and breaking,” Chu says. “That also opened the door to a lot of new characters.”
Chu was drawn in by the screenplay, written by Toni Ann Johnson and Karen Barna, which sees the MSA school in a time of turmoil and transition, having lost its identity and its once inspiring connection to the city of Baltimore’s steely beauty. The screenplay also introduced two new characters with riveting stories: Andie West, a free spirit and rebellious hip-hop dancer who is still reeling from the death of her mother when she is pushed into going to MSA, where she must fight to fit in; and Chase, the school’s most popular student, yet one who has his own doubts about the direction of the school’s future, as well as his own.
Andie is an outsider. Chase is a star. Yet they find themselves sharing the same passion for the tough, creative street-style dance moves forbidden at their school – a passion that brings them together as competitors and friction-fuelled partners as they vie to take part in the all-out dance battle of “The Streets.”
Says producer Jennifer Gibgot, “This movie is almost an inverted version of the first movie. It’s really a movie about underdogs and misfits, about the people who nobody wants or believes in. Without really trying to, Andie changes the school and opens the director’s eyes to accepting new forms of dance. And like STEP UP, it is ultimately a story about love, hope and believing in yourself.”
Adds Chu: “This movie is a real fun ride but it’s also about owning the world you’re in, celebrating what makes you different, what makes you special. We all get lonely, or feel out of place, or feel we don’t fit in at times. I don’t think that ever goes away, no matter what age you are or where you are from, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you that there’s a lot of life ahead of you and the world is what you make it.”
Most of all, in approaching these themes, Chu hoped to infuse the film’s dance numbers with the intense and wide-ranging emotions of these characters, who are experiencing everything from anger and doubt to love and the ecstasy of discovering real belief. In every step, stomp, flip and pop, a part of the lives and yearnings of these characters is expressed.
Explains Chu: “What I love most about the characters in "Step Up 2" is that when words aren’t enough, they are able to speak from somewhere else. Their bodies do the speaking, and that’s the common thread amongst all of them -- and it’s the driving force of the movie.”
Producer Erik Feig echoes that sentiment: "We are deeply proud of the STEP UP franchise at Summit. The movies create an instant party, and make you leave the theater in a better mood than when you first walked in -- rarer and rarer these days. Jon Chu has pushed himself and this movie more than we ever could have imagined -- the dance leaves you breathless, these characters are deeply relatable and likeable, and the music is insanely ‘off the hook’.”
MEET THE CHARACTERS:
ROBERT HOFFMAN IS CHASE
There’s no doubt about it, Chase is MSA’s star student. He’s got the charisma, the smarts and the skills to be a big-time professional performer and he knows it. But that doesn’t mean the pressure’s off, because he doesn’t want to just be technically good; he wants to be different, he wants to stand out, he wants to find the strength to be his own person. Ultimately, he must stand up against his brother Blake, the school’s rigid, classically trained director, to change things up and restore creative freedom to the place he loves.
The filmmakers of "Step Up 2" knew that casting Chase would be key to forging their entire ensemble, as well as to setting off the sparks that heat things up between Chase and Andie, so, as production kicked into high gear, he was their number one casting priority. A search led them to Robert Hoffman, who began dancing way back in kindergarten, mastering every form, from tap and ballet to jazz and all the way to hip-hop as he grew up and, much like Chase, winning all kinds of awards and competitions.
Hoffman went on to become one of the break-out stars from MTV’s hit series “Wild ‘N Out,” made his motion picture debut in “You Got Served” and then lined up a major role in “She’s The Man,” starring with Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. It was clear from his audition that he was on the cusp of something big.
“Robert is just so natural and so real,” observes director Jon M. Chu. “He has that school-boyish charm quality to him, yet he’s also a really special dancer. I knew he was the one who could pull this role off.”
Hoffman was able to nail the character of Chase so closely in part because he could instantly relate to him. “Chase is the guy at MSA who has it all going for him, but the one thing he’s never had, which is actually very much a parallel in my life, is someone to tell him to believe in his own voice as a dancer, to tell him to dance how he wants to dance, from the inside,” explains the actor. “When Andie comes to the school, it’s through her that Chase gets rejuvenated. He finds his passion for dance again. She shows him what it’s like to dance from your heart, to really be an individual, and that changes everything for him.”
He continues: “As someone who grew up as a dancer only wanting to learn from people who inspire me and then to inspire other people – the whole experience of being part of this movie has been a dream come true.”
For Jon M. Chu, Hoffman’s real magic is worked when he starts to break out and follow the beat that’s in his heart. “When you see Robert as Chase really pour it out on the floor it becomes clear that hip-hop is an art form and even his brother can see the art in it,” says Chu. “Robert makes that transformation happen.”
BRIANA EVIGAN IS ANDIE
The heart of "Step Up 2" is Andie, the young woman from the same tough neighborhood as STEP UP’s Tyler Gage () who must try to find a way to transcend her troubled past and fit in at MSA, while still staying true to her roots on Baltimore’s streets. As with Chase, the filmmakers knew they would need to find someone who had both the dancing skills and the acting chops to make her journey come alive. This led them to a brand-new face: Briana Evigan, who at the age of 7 started dancing with hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks (television’s “So You Think You Can Dance?”) and has gone on to appear in several music videos and independent films.
It was when Evigan first read with Robert Hoffman – and the temperature in the room soared – that the filmmakers were sold that she was their Andie. “When they read together it was magic,” recalls Chu. “Briana came alive and she and Robert fed off each other’s energy just as we hoped.”
Adds David Nicksay, “Briana brought a deep, soulful quality to Andie. She comes off as very authentic, organic and moving. She’s also incredibly funny and a smashing dancer.”
Evigan, too, was grabbed by the strong affinity between her own struggles as a young actress and dancer and those of her character. “Andie might start the film having lost a lot, but she’s got a goal and dream and she’s not going to let anything get in her way,” Evigan says. “Her mother has died, she has no father figure, and she’s a little unsure about men. But slowly she learns that sometimes you have to put some things aside to let what you want really come to you. By the end she falls in love with the guy she’s been pushing away the whole time And she learns about the importance of not only belief but of respect.”
When it came to the demands of the dancing, Evigan took a new approach – trying to emulate the strength and fury of street dancers. “I had to drop the whole sexy thing that I had developed and break away from that for a more hardcore approach,” she explains. “It was challenging but I loved it and learned so much. I also loved the way the members of the dance crews each had such strong personalities so that the dancers and their personal relationships stand out much more than they do in other dance movies I’ve seen.”
Most of all, Evigan was inspired throughout by Andie’s unbreakable spirit, which brings her to a place she never expected. Sums up the actress: “When times are really tough and everything is falling apart and you feel like you don’t belong anywhere, Andie shows that you just need to stay strong and keep going and never let anyone step in the way of your dream.”
CASSIE VENTURA IS SOPHIE
When Andie arrives at MSA, she finds herself in a rivalry with one of the school’s most promising and confident female talents: the “triple threat” actor, singer and dancer, Sophie, who also happens to be Chase’s jealous ex-girlfriend. For this key role, the filmmakers chose another newcomer to the screen, Cassie Ventura, the R&B recording artist who makes her feature film debut and also contributes a song to the soundtrack.
Although, like her character, Cassie is a natural singer, she turned out to be the only member of the astonishingly accomplished cast who had no real dancing experience. But this turned out to be only a minor hitch for Cassie, who honed her natural talent in intensive rehearsals. “I think I was the only untrained dancer in the production,” she admits, “but I knew that if I put my heart into it, people would feel that – and so I just went for it.”
Jon M. Chu was impressed not only with Cassie’s bravery in jumping into the role but with her strong presence that captures Sophie’s intensity and fury. “When Cassie walks into a room, right away it feels like she really owns the space,” he notes. “And I think she really enjoyed playing a kind of bad guy role, because she herself is so sweet. She also really understood that Sophie has her own arc in the story. She’s not really a villain because, deep down, she’s a lost soul, too, and eventually she is pushed into doing something nice for the first time in her life.”
Cassie loved taking Sophie through major internal changes, from self-centeredness to seeing the bigger picture. “In the beginning of the story, Sophie is a very strong-willed, focused girl, almost like a machine,” she observes. “She has shut down her emotions but her relationship with Andie forces her to rediscover her feelings and the importance of other people.”
MEET THE DANCE CREWS:
Andie might find herself dancing in the rarified world of the Maryland School of the Arts, but her heart is back in the streets with the legendary underground Baltimore street crew she has long dreamed of dancing with: The 410. This rag-tag crew is made up of a group of strong, flashy personalities whose completely original skills and hard-core passion for hip-hop make them among the city’s most creative and coolest dance teams – and the ones to beat at “The Streets” competition.
Casting the members of The 410, as well as the rival MSA crew, was a blast for the filmmakers because it gave them a chance to witness some of the amazingly diverse and magnetic dancing talent out there today. The audition process began with massive open calls in Baltimore and New York, during which 500 hopeful dancers were whittled down to just a handful of stand-outs under the demanding eyes of the filmmakers and the choreographers. Authenticity was at the heart of every decision – the focus on dancers who could relate to the material with their hearts as well as their skills.
The uncompromising leader of The 410 is Tuck, the intense street dancer who has his own feelings for Andie that get shaken up in the mix. For Tuck, The 410 is more than just a dance crew – it’s a kind of street family who stick together through thick and thin, and Andie’s departure to attend MSA, or what he dubs “that prissy ballet school” leaves him feeling both betrayed and jealous. Playing Tuck is Black Thomas, a Miami native who cut his teeth as a dancer in the FAMU Connection, a hip-hop dance troupe at Florida A&M University, then went on to appear in such movies as “Stomp The Yard,” “Dreamgirls” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.”
Like the rest of the cast, Thomas felt a deep empathy for his character and his love of dancing in spite of his emotional confusion over Andie. “What I liked most is that this movie says a lot about how you view yourself, how you represent,” says Thomas. “The 410 is all about attitude. It’s all about unity. It’s all about strength and power. It’s not just about kids dancing, it’s about kids expressing themselves.”
The filmmakers were impressed with Thomas’ ability to evoke Tuck’s strength and belief through both his dance moves and his dialogue. “As Tuck, Black has the power to be at once vulnerable and scary,” notes Chu. “We wanted the audience to feel the friction and the threat of the character and Black had it all. Plus, he’s an amazing dancer.”
The 410 crew’s female leader and Andie’s former best friend, Felicia, was equally vital to the story and the filmmakers found themselves drawn to Telisha Shaw, a rising young dancer who herself received a sought-after scholarship to the Dance Theatre of Harlem that kicked off her career dancing on tour with such artists as Christina Aguilera, Janet Jackson, Green Day, Kanye West and Beyonce.
A playful chorus of “Telisha plays Felisha” echoed throughout the production but the filmmakers were very pleased with the serious work Shaw brought to the performance. “Felisha is such a hard role,” says Chu, “because she’s Andie’s friend in the beginning, then turns on her quickly, only to come around again at the end. When Telisha came in, she read the scene where she tells Andie, ‘it’s not what you want, it’s what you got’ – and she turned it into one of the most memorable auditions I’ve ever been in. She read it in a way that I’d never even imagined that scene, in a way that made me want to cry for her. Telisha portrayed the character as someone who wants to believe in Andie, but everything in her life has shown her something different. She has to come to realize that the way you live your life is a choice you make.”
Also joining The 410 are a number of young stars from authentic hip-hop backgrounds who bring their own trademark tricks, moves, humor and style to the proceedings: Kejamel “K-Mel” Howell, a dance legend on You Tube and Myspace who also serves as Hi Hat’s assistant choreographer, is K-Mel; Rynan “Rainen” Paquio who is part of the renowned Jabbawockeez crew, is Kid Rainen; local Baltimore b-boys Jeff “Rapid” Ogle and James “Cricket” Colter are Rapid and Cricket; Donnie “Crumbs” Counts, a world-class athlete and dancer with hundreds of popular videos on the internet is Crumbs; and acclaimed b-girls Shorty Welch and Alison Faulk are Shorty and Alstar.
Danielle Polanco, a Bronx native who began dancing at the Alvin Ailey School as a youngster and was on tour with Jennifer Lopez when she was cast in the film, rounds out The 410 crew as Missy, who brings a salsa touch to her dancing and is the only other person who dances with both The 410 and MSA crew. She too found herself deeply relating to what her character goes through in the film.
Says Danielle: “Missy is the kind of person who tries to make the best out of everything. When everybody else is arguing, Missy just enjoys life and looks at the boys. Jon lets us all ad lib and add a little of our own flavors to the character and that made it so much fun.”
THE MSA CREW
While The 410 are rough-and-ready with a hungry street sensibility, MSA is filled with polished, life-long dancers who have had the very best in classical training and harsh discipline. Yet, even at MSA there are those who march to their own beat, who dare to do things a different way, and it is a group of these misfits and rebels who form Chase’s MSA crew – and secretly train to go out into the darker side of Baltimore and compete in “The Streets.”
The crew Chase puts together is every bit as unique and committed as The 410. They include: Monster, played by Luis Rosado, the stunningly acrobatic stunt double for the school plays who’s really a b-boy; Jenny Kido, played by Mari Koda, the Japanese exchange student; Smiles, played by LaJon Dantzler, whose offbeat style the school is trying to hone; Hair, played by Christopher Scott, the long-haired tap dancer who the school hopes will clean up his act and go to Broadway; Fly, played by Janelle Cambridge, the shy girl who turns into a completely different person when the music comes on; and Cable, the gadget guru, played by Harry Shum Jr.
One of MSA’s most colorful students, and one of Andie’s best friends at MSA, is the fun-loving Moose, who got into the school as a lighting designer but harbors a passion for dancing. Playing Moose is Adam G. Sevani, who at just 15 years-old became the cast’s youngest member when his self-made audition tape had the filmmakers in awe. “When you find someone like Adam and see a star in the making, you have to go for it,” says Chu.
Then there is MSA’s director, Chase’s stuffy older brother, Blake, who is portrayed by acclaimed Broadway star Will Kemp. Chu always thought that Kemp would be perfect to capture the essence of the classically trained dancer who takes over MSA and tries to give it a formal, disciplined structure in the hopes of raising money and improving the school’s fortunes. Indeed, Kemp himself was trained classically at England’s Royal Ballet School, then worked in a contemporary dance company for many years.
Kemp sees Blake as conflicted between his long-buried instincts as performer and his ambitions as an administrator. When he sees Andie’s audition, it brings that conflict inside him to a head. “He believes he can convince people who are plowing money into the school to pay for a new building by taking a raw talent from the street, training her, and making her worthy of a career. But Blake has a struggle – his reputation is at stake and he needs to get Andie to toe his line. When that doesn’t quite happen, it makes him reassess what he’s trying to do and if it is the right thing,” Kemp explains.
Also intriguing to Kemp is the contentious and realistic sibling relationship Blake has with his talented but far less conventional brother, Chase. He says, “Chase is a very gifted young man, but in Blake’s view he is throwing it down the drain because all he wants is to be on the street, to be dancing hip-hop, which Blake has no respect for.”
Kemp, on the other hand, has nothing but respect for the hip-hop dancers he got to know on the set of "Step Up 2", who were a revelation to the classically trained dancer and actor. “I think these kids are truly amazing,” he remarks. “They work incredibly hard at this particular technique and some of what they do in this movie is going to look breathtaking on screen.”
CHOREOGRAPHY AND DESIGN SET THE TONE
From the beginning, director Jon M. Chu wanted "Step Up 2" to have its own distinct look and feel – one that draws from the explosive creativity and raw emotion of authentic street dance styles. Chu knew that the film’s entire design concept would have to revolve around strong, original choreography, so he worked closely with a trio of renowned legends in the hip-hop world, who together were able to weave an astonishing array of different dance forms into the film’s gritty tapestry.
Serving as the film’s supervising choreographer is Jamal Sims, who worked with Anne Fletcher on the first STEP UP as Channing Tatum’s choreographer and has also worked with producer Adam Shankman on such films as “Hairspray.” Among the scenes where Sims’ creative touch can be felt is the joyous and sensuous hip-hop salsa fusion that takes place at Missy’s house.
Sims was joined by Nadine “Hi Hat” Ruffin, known for breaking new ground as hip-hop’s leading female choreographer, and whose tough, inventive and empowering moves for women as well as her work on the popular videos of hit recording artist Missy Elliot, have brought something fresh and real to the genre. Hi Hat worked with the champion 410 crew, choreographing their numbers as they rise to dominance, weaving break-dance pops and locks into the mix and even using trampolines to take their moves to a higher level.
Completing the threesome is Dave Scott, a native of Compton who danced his way into a career in theatre, film and television and came to fore with the dynamic moves of Scott choreographed the MSA crew’s numbers, taking them from funky misfits unsure of their style to dazzling hip-hop stars in their own right.
Sims credits the film’s cast with bringing the work of all three choreographers to life with so much zeal. “They were all so gung ho and ready to try anything,” he notes. “They’re all the real deal and they just want to dance, which made the process both a lot of fun and very true to the story.”
Hi Hat also gives respect to director Jon M. Chu. “He always knew exactly what he wanted and had every dance planned out in his head, which is a rare thing for a director,” she observes.
Scott admits there was even a little healthy competitiveness between the three – which was encouraged by Chu who kept the choreographers from seeing each other’s work until the last possible moment to enhance the suspense between The 410 and MSA crews. “The dance world is always very competitive; everybody wants to battle,” Scott explains. “Everyone wants to be better than everyone else, but if you’re good, you also give props where props are due. Hi Hat is an incredible choreographer and having her work with the rival crew was very motivating. I think we brought out the best in each other.”
Meanwhile, to highlight the kinetic feeling of the entire film, Chu also worked closely with his design team, including cinematographer Max Malkin, production designer Devorah Herbert and costume designer Luca Mosca, each of whom Chu brought on board because of their innate understanding of rhythm and style.
Malkin in particular had his work cut out for him, shooting on-the-fly in Baltimore warehouses and trainyards, and trying to add a subtle layer of fairy tale sheen to this often grey, grimy urban background.
“Max Malkin brought a real visual energy to the movie,” says executive producer David Nicksay. “He allowed it to feel rough around the edges, and kind of restless, really capturing the emotional power we were trying to bring out of the characters and the storyline.”
“I was open to being more visually progressive than you usually see in dance films,” adds Malkin. “We didn’t want to create music videos that are separate from the story but to weave the narrative into the dance and vice versa. Jon gave me a lot of freedom to do that and was open to a lot of new and different ideas that I think make the film far more visually expressive.”
Devorah Herbert took Chu’s vision of a gritty, urban fairy tale set in Baltimore and ran with it. “We really focused on the contrast between the world of the MSA students and the dancers from the streets,” explains Herbert. “At MSA, we used a muted color palette with cool, even tones, while on the streets everything is super-textured and grimy, but with lots of splashes of color and graffiti representing the kids’ creative expression.”
The final touches were added by Italian-born costume designer Luca Mosca who says he “fell in love at first sight with this project, with the energy, the story and the creative opportunities it gave me.” Mosca worked closely with Chu to give each of the dance crews, as well the individual dancers, their own strong, clear personalities. “The 410s I always saw as moving graffiti, dancing against these dark, earthy backgrounds in saturated primary colors,” he explains. “The MSA crew are more muted with a softer palette but in the finale in the rain they’re in maroons and mustard yellows and burnt oranges. They come together with a beautiful harmony in a very unpredictable way.”
In the end, the look of the film became every bit as electrifying as the dancing itself. Sums up Jennifer Gigbot: “Jon always knew exactly what he wanted this movie to look like, right down to the graffiti on the walls. He wanted it to be real and raw and give an authentic feeling for Baltimore – but underlying all of that he always saw this as a fairy tale. And it has that magic to it.”
A SOUNDTRACK OF THE STREETS:
There would be no dance at all for the characters of "Step Up 2" if it wasn’t for the driving music and irresistible beats that inspire them. Coming on the heels of the gold-certified soundtrack for the original STEP UP, the filmmakers turned again to music supervisor Buck Damon to bring together an equally compelling, yet completely fresh, collection of music tracks. Damon tapped into some of today’s hottest up-and-coming artists in hip-hop, rap and R&B to forge a soundtrack with the same kind of street energy as the film.
“In the first film you have hip-hop meeting classical dance, but in this film the story is about dancers wanting to get back to the streets, so that inspired us to go for a real legitimate hip-hop sound,” says Damon. “We really stripped things back and there’s a lot less orchestration and a lot more singles that are now climbing the charts.”
Damon worked in sync with director Jon Chu, as well as Mitchell Leib, President of Music and Soundtracks for Walt Disney Pictures, and Atlantic Records, who lent the project their roster of young stars, whom Damon notes were “very appealing.”
Heading up the soundtrack artists is female rapper, singer, songwriter and producer Missy Elliott, whose six platinum-selling albums have established her as one of the leading artists of a generation. “One of my personal favorite songs in the film is Missy Elliott’s ‘Ching-a-Ling’ – it’s an amazing track and it just fits the film like a glove,” Damon muses.
Damon also recruited Miami-based star Flo Rida and the Grammy-nominated Southern soulster T-Pain for their song “Low,” which sparked some of Jamal Sims’ most inspired choreography and recently became a No. 1 hit single. He was also excited to bring in Grammy-nominated Atlanta rapper Yung Joc whose indelible song “Girl You Know” is currently riding up the charts.
Other artists featured on the soundtrack include Spanish pop star Enrique Iglesias; contemporary R&B singer/songwriter Trey Songz; pop/soul girl-group Cherish; Ft. Meyers-based underground hip-hop artist Plies and the Grammy-nominated Senegalese musical star Akon; the 20 year-old twin R&B stars Brit & Alex; as well as Cassie, the R&B singer who stars in the film as Sophie. Adding more diversity, Irish teen Laura Isibor and the sweet-voiced soul sensation Kevin Michael also add songs heard in the film. “I’m really eclectic, so even though the film has a true hip-hop sound, there’s also an emphasis on lots of different, great melodies – and all those melodic choruses give it a real cinematic feeling,” sums up Damon.
One of Damon’s biggest challenges arose in “swapping out” some of the songs that the dancers had performed to on the set for new songs chosen by the filmmakers in post-production. “It’s definitely something you couldn’t have done before computers,” he says. “It seems like it would be impossible, but once you get the hang of how to match the beats, it’s amazing how you can often make the dance work even better to a new song.”
Also appearing on the "Step Up 2" soundtrack are the winners of the film’s special Sing on the Soundtrack Contest – part of a groundbreaking interactive, internet campaign for the film which gave STEP UP fans the chance to participate in the new film by singing on the soundtrack, dancing in a music video or appearing in the film. “It was great fun to give someone a chance to make their own musical hopes come true,” says Damon.
For the filmmakers, the contest was another great way to get back to where the heart of the film lies: out on the streets where new discoveries and new dreams are constantly being made.
Below - Exclusive Photos from "Step Up 2," featuring Robert Hoffman, Cassie and Briana Evigan