That’s how street dance started: in the clubs, in the streets, ripping up the rules, dancing with freedom

Download 0.74 Mb.
Size0.74 Mb.
  1   2   3   4   5
“That’s how street dance started: in the clubs, in the streets, ripping up the rules, dancing with freedom”

- Carly


Things couldn’t be going better for street dancer Carly (NICHOLA BURLEY). She’s in love with charismatic boyfriend Jay (UKWELI ROACH) and their dance crew has just made it through to the finals of the UK Street Dance Championships. But everything changes when Jay walks out on Carly and the crew, breaking her heart and leaving the street dancers’ dreams in jeopardy. Thrown in at the deep end, Carly struggles to prove to the crew – and to herself – that she can lead them to victory. But, after a series of setbacks including losing their rehearsal space, she begins to seriously doubt her leadership skills.

Salvation comes in the unlikely shape of ballet schoolmistress Helena (CHARLOTTE RAMPLING). Impressed by the skill and enthusiasm of Carly and her troupe, she strikes the street dancers a deal: they can practise in the Ballet Academy’s luxurious dance studio in return for collaborating with her ballet dancers. Helena hopes Carly can inject some of the street dancers’ intensity and passion into her young charges before they audition for The Royal Ballet.
A clash of cultures ensues as the two very different dance styles face off against each other. After years of classical training, the ballet dancers are horrified at the crew’s slouchy style, while Carly is increasingly exasperated at their uptight aloofness. Eventually, and despite themselves, the ballet dancers begin to feel a grudging respect for the street dancers’ spectacular moves. And Carly can’t help falling for handsome ballet dancer Tomas (RICHARD WINSOR).
Will the two groups of dancers find a way to work together before the Street Dance Championship finals, and the Royal Ballet auditions? Vertigo Films presents the world’s first 3D dance movie, and the first British film to be shot entirely in 3D. With debut film appearances from Britain’s Got Talent stars Flawless, Diversity and George Sampson, this groundbreaking event movie is an inspiring, exhilarating joyride through the UK’s street dance scene.


“The idea for StreetDance was in some ways a reaction,” explains producer James Richardson, co-founder of Vertigo Films. “Every media story was about young kids stabbing each other and every film was about drugs and gangs and I thought, it’s time to make something positive. I’d always loved the great American dance films of the eighties – Flashdance, Dirty Dancing, Footloose – and thought it would be great to do a dance film with the same aspirational feel and look of an American movie, but in a very British setting. I started looking into the UK street dance scene and soon realised that not only did we have some of the best dancers and choreographers in the world, it was also visually incredibly rich. But I wanted the street dance world to be challenged. The dance world has got lots of islands of speciality: classical, modern, street, etc. So I thought, what would happen if two of those worlds collided? How would they deal with it? How would they dance? And what kind of dance would it turn into? So I came up with the story of two worlds – the traditional British world represented by the classical dancers and The Royal Ballet, and modern Britain, represented by the street dancers. It was what came out of that culture clash that I thought would be exciting.”

During his research, Richardson found himself thrown in at the deep end. “I went to the UK Street Dance Weekend and was hauled in to be a judge,” he laughs. “It was hilarious because I didn’t have a clue. But I was amazed at all the talent I saw. And that’s how I was introduced to Diversity and Flawless, a year before either of them got into Britain’s Got Talent.”
Of course, both dance crews went on to dominate the 3rd series of the BBC’s talent competition in 2009, with Diversity eventually winning the series. “Everyone started getting extremely excited about dance,” enthuses Richardson. “It’s been great, and obviously fantastic for me to already have them involved with the film. I couldn’t have designed it better. I was very, very lucky that happened.”
The next step was to hire a writer for the script. Richardson took a chance on Jane English, a screenwriter he had never worked with before, because he knew she could speak to a younger audience. “Jane had written parts of the TV series Sugar Rush, which I was a big fan of,” he explains. “So we worked very closely together on the script and developing the characters over about eight months. During that time, we created a role for George Sampson, who had won the 2nd series of Britain’s Got Talent. We really wanted him to be a part of it, and he’s been fantastic.”
Richardson was keen to make the film in 3D from the beginning, even though it wasn’t something that had been done before in the UK. “My producing partner, Allan Niblo, and I had been talking about 3D for a while,” he says. “This felt like an obvious film to start with as dance has a lot of depth to it, especially street dance. So we spoke to the guys at Paradise FX, who had made My Bloody Valentine 3D. Once we told them what we’re doing, they leapt at the chance to be involved.”
Working entirely in 3D posed many challenges and it soon became a steep learning curve for Richardson and the rest of the crew. “We’re the first film outside of America to be shot in 3D live action so there’s a lot of learning going on,” he admits. “You have to think about the design and the positioning of the set because certain things don’t work so well in 3D. And, of course, you have to bear in mind 3D tricks, like when things come off the screen at you. Cost is the biggest difference - it’s more expensive – but worth it.”
Once the script was finished and Paradise FX were on board, Richardson set about looking for the right director, a task he found more difficult than expected. “We took a long time trying to choose the director because we wanted to find someone that really understood dance and how to make it look beautiful,” explains Richardson. “So we decided to look for a promo director, and Max and Dania very quickly became the clear frontrunners. They’re an incredibly exciting director duo, and they really understand how to create a beautiful atmosphere on screen. I’d never worked with two directors before, but I knew that they were perfect for this film. They understood it, they got the vibe. They wanted it to be beautiful and glossy and aspirational. This is their first film so it was a big decision for all of us. But, for me, they just had it.”
Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini have worked together on many music videos over the past 15 years, with artists as diverse as Girls Aloud, Oasis and Sophie Ellis Bextor. And they were extremely excited, if a little anxious, about working on their first film.
“We were a little bit nervous about it,” admits Dania. “But we’ve always wanted to do features so this is something that we’ve been working towards.” Max nods in agreement. “We got the call from James to say that he’d seen our work and was excited about us,” he recalls. “He sent us the script, then we met up with him and soon after he called me to tell us we had the job. I was so taken aback that I didn’t believe him at first and asked him to call Dania too just to confirm! Then, along with Jane, we all got really involved in the later drafts. It’s a brand new learning curve for us to make films. Obviously we have lots of experience in music videos so there are certain things that we’re very confident about, but there are lots of new things too.”
But the rookie directors took to feature length like ducks to water, bowling the cast and crew over with their infectious spirit. “I love Max’s energy,” says Jennifer Leung, who plays ballet dancer Bex in the film. “He always walks into the room with a smile on his face. So, even if you’re really tired, you want to work as soon as you see him. And Dania keeps him in line. Their banter is great. You can tell they’ve known each other a long time and they’ve got a great relationship.”
Charlotte Rampling, who plays ballet schoolmistress Helena, agrees: “I like working with two directors because you have two points of focus,” she explains. “They’re very much in tune with each other.” And both directors were on Richardson’s wavelength from the word go. “One of the things they agreed with me on, right from the start, was that we didn’t want the film to have anything to do with the struggle of inner city kids with drugs and gangs,” says Richardson, firmly. “That was so important because most of the street dancers I met during my research had nothing to do with that world. So many British films focus on the dark, gritty side of British youth and I don’t know why because there are so many positive stories out there. Ashley Banjo from Diversity was doing a physics MA alongside his dancing. It’s such a cliché to assume that urban kids are involved in gangs, and it’s more exciting to focus on the positive element, which in this case is the dance.”


As experienced music video directors, Max and Dania had worked with some of the UK’s best street dancers on previous projects, and they brought that knowledge to StreetDance. “We had worked with some of the dancers and most of the extras before,” explains Dania.

“It makes for a great atmosphere on set,” adds Max. “It’s a family vibe. But nobody was cast just because we know them. We went through weeks of really rigorous auditions.”

In fact, the audition process for the film was unique in that open auditions were held up and down the country to find the UK’s best street dance talent. “We set up a website to advertise the auditions and, almost immediately, it crashed because so many people had tried to apply,” says Richardson, shaking his head in disbelief. “We eventually auditioned over a thousand people in cities around the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Then the shortlisted ones went down to London and we started whittling it down. It’s a really tough audition because not only do you have to be an amazing dancer, but also you have to be able to act.”

“The whole process took weeks,” says Dania. “But there were certain people that we called in to do a closed audition because we really wanted them, like Steph Nguyen, who plays Steph in the film. In real life she’s a b-girl champion. She won one of the biggest world championships in street dance, the Juste Debout in Paris. To have won that competition against all those guys; she’s phenomenal.”
But Richardson admits the biggest casting challenge was finding someone to play the lead role of Carly. “I saw Nichola Burley in her first film, Love + Hate, back in 2005,” he explains. “And I remember thinking that she completely stole the film so I was keen to find something to work with her on. Then, completely coincidently, the casting director, Gary Davy, put her forward for StreetDance. Of course, I knew that she could act, but I didn’t know she could dance, so we put her through some gruelling tests to make sure she could handle it. Kenrick Sandy, our street dance choreographer, really put her through her paces.”
Burley admits that the audition process was terrifying. “I had several auditions and, when I saw the standard of dancing, I was blown away,” she says. “It was scary to watch because I knew that I was up against them in the dancing part of the auditions. I’ve danced since I was very young, and I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so I am a trained dancer but mainly in ballet, contemporary and jazz. I soon realised it’s all about how you hold yourself. Movements in contemporary dance are very fluid and continuous, whereas street dance is quite rigid, so you have to retrain your body.”
Richardson says that one of the best things about the film’s unique audition process was that it threw up lots of fresh, exciting new talent – and some fun surprises. “During the casting process, we kept adding roles into the script because there were people that we really wanted to be in the film but there wasn’t a role for them,” he laughs. “George Sampson is the obvious one, but we also created the role of Isabella for Rachel McDowall and the role of Steph for Steph Nguyen.”
And, of course, there was always a key role for dance troupe Flawless, who play The Surge, bitter rivals to Carly’s crew in the film. “James came to us at first because he wanted to know more about the UK dance scene,” explains Marlon “Swoosh” Wallen, the choreographer behind Flawless. “He’d had this idea for quite some time, but he wanted to know what actually goes on: how it works with regards to competitions and what we go through. Then he asked us to come on board as the Surge crew, and we were very happy and excited to do that.”
So, after such an arduous audition process, Richardson must have become something of a street dance expert himself? “No, no!” he laughs. “In fact, I have actually gone out clubbing with some of these dancers and it’s the most humiliating thing on earth. It’s not like going out with your friends: these guys are the best dancers in Europe. Very embarrassing.”


Nichola Burley plays Carly, our heroine and leader of the street dance troupe that must work with the ballet dancers to be in with a chance of winning the UK Street Dance Championship. “Carly’s a very sweet girl, but she’s very driven by her dancing ambitions,” says Burley. “She’s not had the luckiest of upbringings but, nevertheless, she has always carried on doing it and it’s always driven her. She’s challenged a lot throughout the film and the exciting and inspiring thing about it is how she overcomes those challenges. Personally, I would be terrified at the thought of having to teach ballet students how to street dance. But she is actually stronger than even she realises. She just needs the encouragement to let that out. And, once she does, she ends up becoming the best that she can be. It’s all about her finding that inner strength, and finding out who she is.”

Carly’s best friend, and a source of much support throughout the film, is Shawna, played by Teneisha Bonner. “Shawna’s a loud mouth,” laughs Bonner. “Her day job is a hairdresser and she’s a straight talking, sassy, sexy kind of a girl. She says it the way it is.” One of the most fun parts about the character is Shawna’s outrageous look. “She’s very colourful and loves big earrings and crazy wigs,” grins Bonner. “She’s got a wig for every day of the week so I actually wear about eight to ten wigs in the film. It’s a lot of fun playing someone like her.”
Bringing comic relief to the street dance crew are Mack and Boogie, the jokers of the pack. “It’s really nice to work with a whole bunch of people that totally get you,” says Lex Milczarek, who plays Boogie. “Everyone’s so dedicated and hard working but, at the same time, everyone loves to have a laugh so we have a great time together. There are no egos on set. You do worry that, if you do films, you’re going to get stuck-up types; thespians or whatever. But everyone’s so chilled out and we get on really well. Which is great because we play a crew so we’re supposed to be like family.”
Bradley Charles, who plays Frankie, originally joined the project as assistant to Kenrick Sandy, the film’s street dance choreographer. “Ken and I were running the auditions when they saw me dance and asked me to audition for a role in the film,” Charles explains. “So I did a screen reading and a dance audition, then they offered me the role. It all happened by chance.”
Frankie is one of the film’s more serious roles. He’s unhappy about Jay leaving the crew, and is extremely unsupportive of Carly’s attempts to take over as leader. “He feels that he would have been a better choice to lead the crew,” reveals Charles. “He gets in a huff about it, has a go at Carly and then leaves the crew. But he’s ambitious so he eventually comes back because he wants to win the competition.”
Frankie’s girlfriend is Steph, the role created for internationally renowned b-girl Steph Nguyen. “The character is basically me,” explains Steph. “Although the costumes are a little more sexy than I would normally wear! I wanted to be a part of this film because dance is my passion, it’s my life.”
Rounding off the street dance crew are Aimee (Sacha Chang) and Justine (Rhimes). “Justine sings in the church choir and her mum thinks that she’s an angel,” explains Rhimes. “Little does she know that her Justine can be really bossy, with a big personality. The rest of the crew call her Big Justine.”

As for Aimee? “She’s basically a bit of a bitch,” laughs Chang. “She spends a lot of time bitching with Justine.”

Britain’s Got Talent winner George Sampson had the role of Eddie created especially for him. “Eddie’s a lot like me,” he admits. “He’s quite cheeky and he really wants to be in Carly’s crew. He’s got a bit of a crush on her too. But, no matter how hard he tries to get involved, she says no.” But – fear not – Eddie gets his chance to show what he can do on the dancefloor, despite Carly’s best efforts to prevent him. “He doesn’t so much get his chance as make his chance,” says Sampson. Not being biased, but he is the best character!”
Sampson had already worked with the directors, so he felt at home on set. “Max and Dania directed my music video, Headz Up, last year,” he explains. “So they asked me to do a screen test to see if I could act and, luckily, they thought I could. This is my first film and I’d love to do more. I’m so excited to be involved with this because it’s the first British dance movie.”
Sampson cites his inspiration as not only the usual suspects of Usher and Justin Timberlake, but also his childhood dance teacher. “His name was Swanny and he was my biggest inspiration,” says Sampson. “He has passed away now, but it was him that made me want to do it. He was in one of the first break-dancing crews that danced in Manchester’s Hacienda in the 1980s. It’s because of him that my style is quite old school.”

Rhimes is extremely excited about the emerging popularity of street dance in the UK and thinks that Sampson’s springboard, Britain’s Got Talent, is partly responsible.

Britain’s Got Talent is watched and voted for by not just the kind of people that you would expect to be into street dance, but by normal British people sitting at home on a Saturday night.” she says. “Dance has a wider appeal now because it has evolved, it’s got younger. And it’s entertaining for people. For me, it’s a passion. I teach a lot of young people and I’m always telling them, if you’re going to do this, it has to be from your heart. And, as the passion grows, people inspire each other. A lot of films about young people in Britain are all about the ghetto and knives and guns. But we’ve come into this industry trying to inspire young people to be ambitious about something.”


As ballet schoolmistress Helena, Charlotte Rampling is a pivotal role in the film. “If my character hadn’t had this idea to dare to put ballet and street dancing together, there wouldn’t be a story,” she explains. “Helena sees something of herself in Carly – that strong spirit of wanting to be alive.”

Although some might be surprised to see Rampling’s name on a film about street dance, she believe it’s the perfect fit. “I was so delighted to be involved in this film because I have always loved dance,” she says. “Although I have never danced professionally – only in clubs! It’s enriching to find out that people would think of you for a role that you would never have imagined you would do. I loved meeting all the young street dancers because I would never get the chance to meet them otherwise. And I love that the film shows young people really trying hard to do something. It shows that, if you work really hard, with passion, then you can achieve extraordinary things. It’s rather wonderful to be able to put that message across.”
Handsome, athletic Tomas is one of the best students in the Ballet Academy. “He’s the popular stud,” says Richard Winsor, who plays him. “Well, popular in ballet terms, so I’m not sure how cool that actually makes him! But he gets knocked off his pedestal when the street dancers arrive. He doesn’t want to be part of it at first but, eventually, he starts to see there is as much talent and beauty in street dance as there is in ballet.”
And, of course, he is involved in the film’s love story. “Yes, he falls for Carly,” he smiles. “It’s a key part of the film.”
Like all of the cast, Winsor endured a rigorous audition process. “I was dancing in Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Grey at the time,” he says, “So we were touring all around the country and to places like Italy and Moscow. But, any time I was called to London to audition, I was there like a shot. This is such a great project to be involved in.”
Liverpudian Rachel McDowall joins Winsor as another of the ballet dancers. “Isabella is a ballet bitch,” laughs McDowall. “And she has two sidekicks: Chloe (played by Welsh actress Sianad Gregory), who is also very bitchy about the street dancers, and Bex, who is more naïve.”
But Isabella is taken down a peg or two when she receives some news that leaves her dreams of auditioning for The Royal Ballet in tatters. “I’m six foot tall,” explains McDowall. “So, in the storyline, Isabella finds out that she can’t audition for The Royal Ballet with everyone else because she’s too tall. In a way, she knows it’s going to happen because she has never really had a partner who’s tall enough or who could lift her. But ballet is all she knows because she’s trained in it her whole life. When the street dancers come along, she’s initially wary, but eventually she starts changing her way of thinking and realises that ballet isn’t the only thing in the world.”
Interestingly, this storyline is a case of art imitating life for McDowall. “The same thing actually happened to me when I was younger,” she explains. “I trained in ballet since I was very young and it got to the point where I was auditioning for The Royal Ballet when I was 11. But they could tell that I was going to grow this tall, so that was it. I was mortified. At the time, it felt like my whole world. But, after about a month, I got over it.”
Scottish Actress Jennifer Leung plays sweet-natured Bex, who struggles with the bitchy attitude of Isabella and Chloe and is more welcoming of the street dancers. “Bex lives and breathes ballet,” says Leung. “It’s all she’s ever known, but that’s not to say she is totally against the street dancers. She’s nicer than the other two ballet girls, and she understands Helena’s thinking behind asking them to work together. It actually changes her life because she’s extremely innocent. She has never been to a nightclub and is very ‘Angelina Ballerina’. So, when the street dancers come into her life, it opens her eyes to other things and she starts to become more worldly.”
The other male ballet dancer in the group is Gabe, played by Brazilian Hugo Cortes. “Gabe comes from a very poor background in Cuba, and he has worked extremely hard to leave that behind and get into the world of classical ballet,” explains Cortes. “It was really hard for him, but he made it. He got a scholarship into this London ballet school so now he has become very cocky, very proud of himself. At first, he struggles with the street dancers because hip-hop reminds him of his background that he has worked so hard to get away from. After all that work to become a classical ballet dancer, he doesn’t want to go back to what he used to know. But he likes a challenge so, eventually, he embraces street dance. When he sees the moves, he feels something click inside of him that he can’t deny.”
Again, Cortes’s personal story isn’t a million miles away from the one that he’s portraying in the film. “My stepfather is a contemporary dancer, and so is my uncle and my godfather,” he says. “But none of them, my mother included, wanted me to get into dancing. It was hard because I loved dance so much. But they kept telling me that it’s so hard to be successful at it, and I would never make it as a professional. I had to really prove myself by studying and showing that I have the ability to be a success. So I worked really hard and graduated from school a year early. Then I told my mother I would like to take that extra year to focus on dance and, in that year, I got a job with a big dance company in Brazil. After that, my family started to think, ‘OK, maybe he can do it after all.’ Now I have been lucky enough to perform at the Royal Opera House, and all around the world. Contemporary ballet is what I’m best at, so it has been a great challenge to learn classical ballet for this role.”
Cortes is thrilled to be part of the UK’s first dance movie. “I’ve done lots of musicals and opera but this is my first film role so I am dying with excitement,” he grins. “My family and friends back in Brazil are going crazy. My mother thinks that I’m already in Hollywood!”

“I had met Kate Prince soon after her show Into The Hoods,” explains Richardson. “I loved the show and wanted her and Kenrick Sandy (an Olivier-winning choreographer who is a former UK Street Dance Champion and co-creator of hip-hop dance company Boy Blue) involved from the start. The idea was for Kenrick to cover the key street dance scenes, while the ballet would be overseen by Will Tuckett, an internationally renowned ballet dancer and choreographer who Kate Prince brought in, best known for his work with The Royal Ballet and films such as the acclaimed Channel 4 series Ballet Hoo. Then Kate would be responsible for the other scenes: all the dance storytelling and the finale when the two dance forms are fused.”

Kate Prince, who is the founder of ZooNation UK dance company and recently choreographed So You Think You Can Dance for the BBC, knew that working on her first film would throw up some new and exciting challenges. “Working with non-dancers was by far the greatest challenge,” she says. “And the 3D element was very new for me. I had to think about the camera shots and what moves would come out of the camera more.”
Kenrick Sandy established Boy Blue Entertainment in 2001, along with his friend Mikey Asante, when they realised there was a hunger for dance in East London. “It was never an ambition to create a company,” he explains. “It was more to facilitate our love for dance, and other people’s love for dance.” Since then, Sandy has seen how street dance has transformed the lives of the young people he has worked with. “Dance enables people to be stronger characters,” he says. “Whether people dance as a career or as a hobby, they take away a sense of discipline and enhanced self-esteem from dancing, and they’re able to apply that to other areas of their lives. We show people how to express themselves and allow themselves to let go.”

Sandy was excited about the project from the moment James Richardson approached him with the idea. “This is the very first UK street dance film,” he grins. “America has had lots of them so, for me, it felt important to be involved in it. I’m happy that it’s happened, even more so because the market for dance has grown ridiculously. It’s coming out in the right year, at the right time, when dancers are getting more exposure. Plus, it’s an opportunity to show how different styles of dance are actually very similar to each other. When you think of street dance, you think of working class kids on the street and youth centres. With ballet, you think of the upper classes. And what this film shows is that, ultimately, dance is dance. We’re all the same. It’s about breaking down those boundaries.”

Sandy admits that, at first, he was wary about working with Nichola Burley, who had previously had no street dance training. “I thought Nichola was a very big gamble,” he says. “As the main character, she had to be top class in dance. So I told her to come down to all my sessions and classes before we started rehearsals for the film. She was always there, at the back, training with the Boy Blue dancers. She even did a performance with us at Hackney Empire because I wanted her to understand what it’s like to be in front of an audience. She felt the pressure because she’s the main girl so she was worried about letting everyone down. There were quite a few times she felt like giving up and there were tears. But I was not playing. I told her: ‘Stop crying. You’re the star. Even at your lowest, your troupe cannot see you like this.’ I had to speak to her numerous times on set. But, by the end, people will be surprised to know that she wasn’t a dancer before this. I’m really proud of her.”
For Tuckett, the biggest challenge was working with dancers that had little classical training. “They are all really good dancers, but in contemporary dance,” he explains. “They all had some degree of classical training, but none of them had done it in a long time so the colour drained from their faces when I made them all get en pointe! It was very daunting for them. But I didn’t want anyone who knows about ballet to watch the film and be able to spot that they’re not really ballet dancers. It’s very easy to do a send-up of a ballet dancer – that cliché of being uptight and straight-laced – but it’s much more difficult to make it look convincingly like this is something they do every day. The rehearsal period was crucial. That’s when we worked like mad. It was very hard for them because they were learning the street stuff at the same time. Obviously there is a lot more street dancing than ballet in the film – the clue is in the title! – but we were really uptight about them looking good in the classical scenes. In the end, I was extremely proud of them because they worked so hard and, when you watch the film, I think you believe that they are ballet dancers.”
Tuckett has worked with some of the best ballet dancers in the world, but he was still blown away when he saw the street dancers do their thing. “I’ve been in dance for a long time, as a career, and it’s rare that you sit there and a grin comes across your face because you can’t quite believe what somebody’s actually doing in front of you,” he says, in awe. “They were just extraordinary and, not only that, but they were completely lovely. I’m not quite sure what I thought they would be like. I’m sounding like my mother. They were delightful!”
So was Tuckett tempted to try out a few of the street dance moves? “I did try,” he laughs, “but I looked like a tit. I’m past 40 now, and that’s the age I should have stopped trying to do that kind of dancing.”
In an echo of the film’s plot, the two experts in very different styles of dance forged an unlikely bond. “Kenrick is a total dude,” laughs Tuckett. “He’s annoyingly good-looking, really cool and basically all the things that I wish I could be but never will. I wear tweed and generally look like a bit of a git. Then he comes in, all laidback and softly spoken. And, when he starts dancing, he’s a complete knockout. Also, he’s incredibly positive and never loses his cool.”
But it won’t be the last that the two choreographers see of each other. “Kenrick and I have been talking about working together again, which was totally unexpected,” says Tuckett. “It would be lovely to do something else with him. And if I hadn’t have done this film, with its whole hybrid dance element, then we would never have crossed paths. It was a fantastic experience.”
Richard Winsor, who stars as ballet stud Tomas, relished the challenge of learning two very different styles of dance. “I did three years of ballet training about seven years ago, but I’ve never performed classical ballet professionally so getting back into it has been a work in progress,” he says. “Working with Will Tuckett has been fantastic. It has also been hard work, but I can draw on that for the film. Ballet is a discipline. It has been a huge challenge to regain the style and poise of classical ballet and then to break it up and learn street dance.”
Did he get a chance to throw himself into the street dance side of it? “Yeah, there’s a scene where I do a bit of breaking, which I have never done before in my life,” he laughs. “It’s actually given me a passion for it. The music is so gripping. When you have that beat on really loud, you can’t not move. Obviously I’m not the best street dancer, but I can see why people become really passionate about it. Working on this film has completely transformed my view of street dance. I mean, I’ve always loved watching that kind of dance, and acts like Diversity or Flawless, but actually being part of it and learning about the history and origins of it. It’s been a real pleasure.”
Rachel McDowall, who plays ballet bitch Isabella, was terrified about getting back into tights and revisiting her ballet training. “I actually panicked because I hadn’t done ballet for six years, since I left college,” she says. “It was really hard getting back into it. Sianad and Jennifer, who play the other two girls, have tiny little figures and, you know, I’ve got the figure to go with my six-foot frame. They actually look like ballet dancers. I was mortified when I walked in to rehearsals. I thought, what have I got myself into? And I have to wear tights and leotards!”
But, for McDowall, donning the tights turned out to be the least of her concerns. “I did find it tough in rehearsals, I must admit,” she says. “We were made to do ballet barre every morning from 9am and that’s even harder than dancing because it’s so precise. The day after we started rehearsing, I felt muscles that I have never felt before. I just wanted to cry sometimes.”
Jennifer Leung, who plays ballet dancer Bex, agrees: “I did get a bit teary at one point,” she admits. “Will Tuckett is used to working with people from the Royal Ballet so he was really cracking the whip. It was like ballet bootcamp. But it was good that he was tough on us because that’s what ballet training is like. We were so relieved to hear at the end of rehearsals that he told Max and Dania we were ‘starting to look like ballet dancers.’”

But, for all the ballet dancers’ hard work, Leung admits that she was impressed by the dedication of the street dancers. “Street dance is very technical,” she remarks. “It’s actually more similar to ballet than you might think, because both styles are about strength and discipline. The street dancers were constantly working out and practising in between takes. Then there’s me, Sianad and Rachel sitting around drinking cups of tea and eating biscuits!”


The film is not only the world’s first 3D dance movie, but it’s the first European live action 3D movie.

Stereographer and all-round 3D guru Max Penner is more used to bringing guts and gore to life, having worked on My Bloody Valentine 3D and The Hole 3D. He must be excited to be at the forefront of the 3D revolution happening in film at the moment?

“I don’t think of 3D as a revolution; it’s evolution,” he explains. “It’s only now that this has become economically feasible because it’s easier to project and capture 3D because of digital imaging. We have digital screens, digital players and digital cameras, so we can manipulate stereo pairs much easier in a digital world.”

If that sounds complicated, you’ll have to concentrate hard for this next bit. “Live action 3D involves a camera made up of two lenses and two sensors that are put together in such a way that we can scale a left and right image to be projected on a 40 foot screen. That gives you a 3D image on a flat plane without causing you nausea or grief,” he continues. “I started working with 3D on film, and I can personally tell you that it’s much more of a process and much more expensive to shoot on film. It looks great, but it’s just not feasible any longer. The process that we’re using right now, using digital red cameras and silicon imaging cameras, along with 3D technologies to control those cameras, makes it far cheaper and easier.”
So is 3D the future? “Yes, if modestly budgeted pictures can shoot in 3D, because that’s the majority of pictures that are going to go to the theatres. And if we can shoot enough pictures in this manner, the theatre owners are going to see it as a benefit for themselves to change over so that there are more theatres that can show 3D.”
Directors Max and Dania had never worked with 3D before. “We were thrown in at the deep end,” laughs Max.

“But we were really excited about it,” adds Dania. “It’s a very new medium and it will be huge in the future so it’s great to be right at the forefront of the new wave of films. We knew it was going to be 3D right from when James first brought the script to us and that’s one of the reasons we wanted to do it. It’s so brilliant because it feels like you’re on the floor with the dancers. It’s more immersive; you’re right in there.”

For ballet choreographer Will Tuckett, the 3D element caused him to rethink his whole way of working. “I hadn’t got my head around it at all, but the challenges soon became very obvious to me,” he explains. “There’s a scene where Carly goes to the Royal Opera House to watch a ballet performance of Romeo and Juliet. It has a big ballroom scene, which we shot at the Hackney Empire in London. Normally, I would shoot a scene like that close up with the dancers all crossing the frame. That would look great in 2D but, in 3D, it looked really pants. If you’ve got somebody dancing and their arm sweeps up and goes out of the frame, the whole effect is ruined. So the best way to film a 3D scene like that is a bog-standard long shot, which I thought would look dull but, in 3D, it looks amazing. It was the strangest thing, and a very different way of working for me. Luckily we had the 3D monitors there so I could keep having a look to see what was working. Max was fantastic, and very patient with me being dim. It was an incredible learning experience.”
Veteran actress Charlotte Rampling was blown away when she first saw how the film would look in 3D. “I would never have thought that I would be in a 3D picture,” she laughs. “But it’s beautifully done. It’s a much deeper visual experience and you almost feel like you are part of their bodies when they’re dancing.”
Street dancer Lex Milczarek is equally enthusiastic about being shot in 3D. “Before I got the role, the film company chose a handful of dancers to do a 3D test trailer as an example of what the film will be like,” he explains. “I was one of them, and we got a chance to go and watch the trailer in 3D at the Odeon Covent Garden. It was amazing; we really jumped out of the screen. I’m so stoked to be part of the first 3D film in the UK.”

Hugo Cortes agrees: “We are making history!” he grins. “I have seen some of the playbacks in 3D and it just looks incredible. Seeing the final thing will be a trip.”


“I love Carly’s wardrobe,” enthuses Nichola Burley of the uniform of baggy sportswear and huge trainers. “But it’s nothing like what I would normally wear. In rehearsals, I was wearing my own clothes and, on the first day, Kenrick the choreographer said, ‘come on, we’re going shopping.’ Then he made me spend stupid amounts of money on tracksuit bottoms and the ‘in’ trainers. I didn’t have a clue because I’m not very street. But, as soon as I got the new clothes, it made me feel like somebody else, like Carly. The clothes are really comfortable, but still sexy.”

Costume designer Andrew Cox describes street dance style as, “Eclectic, fun, sexy, cool and, as the kids say, ‘dope!’” Having previously worked on gritty British thrillers such as The Firm, The Heavy and Outlaw, Cox was inspired by a variety of sources. “It was a combination of reference material I gathered on British street dance crews and visits to the Royal Ballet school, as well as observing people on the streets of London.” he says, “Also, I used the cast’s own personalities, Max and Dania’s passion for cool British fashion and the desire to do something different.”
The costume design had to represent the evolution that all of the characters go through over the course of the film. “From a story point of view, our street dance crew becomes stronger and bolder,” explains Cox. “Especially Carly. As she takes control of the situation and grows in confidence, her look gets more distinctive and brighter. Meanwhile, our ballet dancers blossom from the rigidity of uniform to a more eclectic, relaxed and cooler feel as they became part of the street dance world.”
Working with the street dancers, many of whom had never acted before, posed a variety of challenges for Cox. “Much of the cast were used to performing as themselves and not as characters, so the challenge was to get them to wear something out of their comfort zone that would still make them feel great for the part but be more the character than themselves,” he says. “Over the course of preproduction, and even in to the first few weeks filming, the looks evolved and got stronger as the cast relaxed in to their roles, trusting the vision we were trying to achieve and working their looks with confidence. On the flip side, Nichola, being an actress and not a trained street dancer, had the reverse to achieve. We went through several stages to achieve a look that gave her ‘the swagger’ she needed to feel like and be a street dancer.”
As for Cox’s favourite look in the film? “That’s a tough choice,” he sighs, “but it has to be Shawna’s opening outfit: her black and red military look.”
In fact, Shawna’s wardrobe became one of the most talked-about looks on set.

“Shawna is really quirky,” laughs Teneisha Bonner, who plays her. “Normally, I tend to dress in classic styles and wear a lot of black and grey. I don’t break from the norm in terms of my dress. But Shawna’s style is crazy and it has inspired me. I’m definitely going to take some of her style over into my real life.”

Sacha Chang is similarly enthusiastic about her character’s look. “Aimee cares a lot about the way she looks,” she explains. “She’s quite flashy, wearing the latest designer clothes and dancewear. The wardrobe is amazing. I want to keep everything. I love it all!” George Sampson also admits to having his eye on “a pair of Adidas trainers that I hope I’m going to get to keep.”
The ballet dancers, of course, have a very different wardrobe, particularly Charlotte Rampling as dance teacher Helena. In the scene where she offers the street dancers an ultimatum about using her studio, she is majestic in a structured black dress that would not look out of place on the catwalk at Balenciaga. But, this being a film set, not a Parisian couture show, there was rather a tighter budget and Andrew Cox improvised with an array of excellent high street steals. “Can you believe that dress is from Warehouse?” breathes Jennifer Leung as Rampling strides past in her black showstopper. “The wardrobe department have done an incredible job on this film.”
Contrary to the image of ballet dancers as being from extremely privileged backgrounds, Richard Winsor explains that Tomas actually has very little money to spend on clothes.

“He basically has his staple jeans and one pair of trainers,” explains Winsor. “So his wardrobe doesn’t have anything flash, but he always looks cool and sexy.”

In one scene, the street dancers take the ballet dancers out to a club, in order to give them a taste of street style. Of course, the ballet dancers are dressed entirely inappropriately for the baggy swagger of the club. “We stand out a hell of a lot,” laughs Winsor, between takes. “I actually think this jacket is pretty cool but it’s very wrong compared to this grimy club where everyone’s in baggy jeans, big caps and huge earrings. I feel quite out of place, but that’s the idea.”
Overall though, Winsor is a fan of Tomas’s look. “I would describe his style as ‘indie smart,’ and it’s not that dissimilar to what I would wear in real life,” he admits. “Although Tomas is very keen on clothes that accentuate his ballet physique. I would probably never walk around in a vest, like he does. But then he is still at college: he’s young and virile!”

The music, of course, was always going to be integral to the film and Richardson brought in Lol Hammond, his long-time music supervisor to oversee it. “It was with great excitement that I found myself involved in this vibrant and original film project,” smiles Hammond. “It’s totally original in the sense that it’s the UK’s first street dance film, and it’s also shot in glorious 3D, which is the icing on the cake.”

Coincidentally, Hammond found that the UK urban artists he chose to feature on the soundtrack were becoming increasingly popular as the film was being made. “We placed tracks by Ndubz, Tinchy Stryder, Wylie and Chipmunk in the film,” he says, “and then watched with amazement as their careers took off. No longer the domain of the UK underground, this sound was going overground, and doing it with a style and swagger that had not been seen for years. Not only that, but Diversity and Flawless became a street dance phenomenon and genuine mainstream stars, thanks to Simon Cowell and Britain’s Got Talent. Along with George Sampson, they’re a real inspiration to kids up and down the country. It’s exciting times indeed.”
Max and Dania brought in producers Terri and Si to write Sugabitch, the track that plays when the two groups of dancers meet each other for the first time. Then Hammond brought in London-based production duo LP & JC (Lloyd Perrin and Jordan Crisp) to write the majority of the original music. “LP & JC very much represent the sound of a young, fresh, vibey London town,” explains Hammond.
Michael “Mickey J” Asante (who formed Boy Blue Entertainment with Kenrick Sandy), also contributed to the film’s incredible soundtrack, writing the finale and some of the other tracks.
Before working on the movie, Max and Dania had made the pop promo for Ironik’s Tiny Dancer for Elton John and Chipmunk. “That track summed up the movie for me,” explains James Richardson. “The grand master of British pop, Elton John, with two of the newcomers of British R&B. Ever since watching that video, I wanted the track in the film.”
As for the final track, We Dance On, Richardson says it was a no brainer. “It just landed on Lol’s desk,” explains Richardson. “And, as soon as he handed it to Max, Dania and myself, we all said, ‘that’s our end credit track.’”

Hammond nods in agreement: “Musically, it’s a real feast,” he explains. “And, I’m sure, a fabulous compliment to this brave and unique project.”


Street dance is fusion of hip-hop, breaking, popping and locking that’s hugely complex, precise and physically demanding. The term “street dance” covers every style of dancing that originated naturally on the streets and in the clubs, rather than being taught in a controlled environment.

The origins of street dance can be traced back to the early 1970s. DJ Kool Herc is credited with inventing the breakbeat in 1972, by isolating the drums and mixing different speeds together. At the same time, in New York’s South Bronx and Harlem, kids would get together for breaking battles, becoming the world’s first b-boys. Meanwhile, on the west coast of America, funk styles such as popping and locking became popular on the streets of Fresno in California.
Elements of these styles existed many years earlier – Earl ‘Snakehips’ Tucker was an early pioneer of waving and sliding in the 1920s – but it wasn’t until the 1970s that breaking, popping and locking became hugely popular and hip-hop dance became commercially successful. Since then, other styles have emerged – such as krumping and crip walking – that fall under the street dance umbrella.
Improvisation and evolution is key to street dance, which is why street dancers today look very different to the innovators back in the 1980s .

“When you watch videos of street dancers from the 1980s it’s like, how did they come up with that?” says George Sampson, incredulously. “But street dance moves on so quickly. Now it’s all about double flips, and it’s more gymnastic. Some of the original b-boys in America aren’t happy that it’s changed, because they started it and they created these moves. But I think it’s great that it has developed. Everything has to.”

1920s: Earl “Snakehips” Tucker introduces Harlem to an early version of waving and sliding. His rapidly moving hips were considered extremely risqué.

1960s: A style of dancing called “the jerk” becomes increasingly popular in America’s nightclubs. It is now considered a precursor to popping and locking.

1972: DJ Kool Herc develops the breakbeat in a Bronx nightclub in response to enthusiasm on the dancefloor.

1973: Street dance group The Lockers is formed. They are pioneers of American street dance, particularly locking.

1977: The Electric Boogaloos form. They go on to appear on US TV show Soul Train, and perform bodypopping in time to breakbeats.

1979: The original Rock Steady Crew is established in the Bronx. The name soon becomes a franchise for hip-hop crews around the world.

1981: The Rock Steady Crew and the New York City Breakers turn breaking into a pop-culture phenomenon when they battle each other in public at the Lincoln Center.

1990s: The streets of Los Angeles see early versions of krumping.

1996: Event production company G Force organises the world’s first street dance competition in a school auditorium in south London, attended by eight competitors and just 75 spectators. The competition was called Street Dance Weekend and is now a huge annual event.

2009: Street dance crew Diversity are voted winners of Britain’s Got Talent.

2010: StreetDance is released in cinemas.


Download 0.74 Mb.

Share with your friends:
  1   2   3   4   5

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page