break dancing erupted and evolved on New York street corners in front of fascinated passers-by

Step Up 2

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            Dance movies are nearly always powered by inspiration and competition. The spotlight is on the performer, often from a rough background, who has to overcome blocks thrown by parents, schools, and culture, to achieve his/her earned place at the top of the pyramid. Although this movie has enough impediments to stop the bravest souls, the filmmakers have wisely concentrated on dance, not story. In “Step Up 2” the hurdles are centered on the clash between classical and street dance.

            America’s musical contribution to the world has included the pure regional traditions of jazz, country, blues, rap, and break dancing. Like basketball which started in the country but refined itself in urban streets, break dancing erupted and evolved on New York street corners in front of fascinated passers-by. Neither the sport nor the dance was hampered by the confined public spaces that were their practice studios. Now in its 15th generation, break dancing turns the human being into an astonishing jumble of angles and joints. While the music and the movements are essentially jerky, they coexist with a fluid grace that seems nearly impossible. Breakdancers recognize no rules or limits to their self-expression, and there seems no limit to their collective imagination. Theirs is a wildly creative art form.

            And so to “Step Up 2.” Under the radar at the Maryland School of Fine Arts some dancers – disenchanted with classical formality - are ready to be recruited to the streets where a fierce, often angry dance competition unfolds periodically. The competitions are announced without fanfare to the participants by text messages: “Tomorrow night at eight.” The movie unfolds in a strong, straightforward storyline that follows one group of dancers from the point of inception in the dance school to a climactic victory in the streets. Whether focused on practice or performance, this movie is all about the dancing; the story never gets in the way.

            Andie (Briana Evigan) and Chase (Robert Hoffman), together now in dance and romance, recruit the other rebels at MSA and begin the intensive practices that will lead to the final showdown which will win over school officials as well as families. Because the two are eminently likable and truly gifted, we are happy to watch them dance with their talented peers in this latest incarnation of American break dancing.

            Along the way, a bit of magic happens: Adam G. Sevani lets go. Playing a curly topped, slight, and slightly odd looking young fellow named Moose, Sevani jumps into the music and lifts the movie right off the soundtrack. His arms and legs bend and twist where long bones should be holding them straight; his joints are wickedly mobile; grace runs all through his body. It’s a spontaneous explosion of limbs and rhythm – completely unbound by tradition or formality. “Step Up 2” is made to order if you want to see where street kids have taken this American dance form that is limited only by talent and imagination.

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