From the stage back to the streets: stepping up to a fresh, new story

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Step up 2 the streets

About the production

It’s not where you’re from. It’s where you’re at.

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 mould - by forming a crew to compete in Baltimore’s biggest, rawest 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 breakout performances like its predecessor; STEP UP 2 THE STREETS 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 and 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 multitalented 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 THE STREETS 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, theatregoers were ignited by “Step Up,” a hip-hop fairytale 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, 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 STREETS 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 grey 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 downtrodden, often invisible urban neighbourhoods 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 THE STREETS 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 theatre 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.’”
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