“Step Up 3D” bills itself as the first ever 3D dance movie and follows two other films about dance contests among kids that have been solid hits for the Disney studio. Released in 2006 and 2008, respectively, the first two movies have grossed over $260 million worldwide, combined, and now the studio is hoping it can continue its streak.
The film, which stars professional dancers in acting roles, is directed by Jon M. Chu, who also helmed the previous installment. He said the 3D format creates an opportunity for the audience to be part of the dance experience, rather than a mere observer on the sidelines.
“The 3D frame becomes an active partner in the dance,” Chu told Reuters. “Suddenly the audience can be inside the dance, inside the dance battle. There’s a duet that happens between the audience and the dancer.”
Where “Step Up 2” boasted 60 dancers, “Step Up 3D” ups the number to a large 250.
Stepping it up, so to to speak, was a no brainer, for Chu. Dance has become a lot more mainstream in recent years thanks to the popularity of such reality TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars,” “So You Think You Can Can Dance?” and “America’s Best Dance Crew.” Also on TV, top dance groups compete with variety acts on “America’s Got Talent,” while the popular musical series “Glee” features dancing every week. In fact, “Step Up” dancer Harry Shum Jr. is also part of cast of “Glee.”
“With dance shows on TV, the audience is getting more educated,” said Chu. “They’re learning more of the grammar of dance which is exciting. That gives us freedom ... to show a bunch of different styles of dance to tell the story.”
“Step Up 3D” is about a college student who joins an underground dance crew that battles a rival group in a showdown to win some desperately needed money. The focus of the film is not so much on the plot, but the dancing itself. In fact, Chu said that when writing the script, they looked for “the dancer that inspired the character. ... We kind of reverse engineered that.”
“A lot of the characters in the film are who they are,” he said. When auditioning dancers, Chu said the filmmakers looked all over the world and the Internet to search for the “NBA All Stars of Dance,” referring to the US National Basketball Association professional league. Luckily some of them were in front of the filmmakers’ very own eyes, as “Step Up” franchise producer Adam Shankman is also a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance?”
“We have to continue to move dance forward,” said Chu, who is also the creator of a dance web series called “The LXD.” “We have an opportunity to take dance to the next level.”