In Five Dances, which opens nationwide this fall, 18-year-old Chip (played by Ryan Steele) moves to NYC with nothing but a sleeping bag and a love for dance. Cast in his first professional dance job, Chip struggles to find himself—and, ultimately, find love. This heart-wrenching tale, full of incredible dancing, will transfix you. (Though be warned: It deals with content that may be too mature for young viewers.) Steele’s performance is both intense and quirky—it’s hard to believe this is his first foray into film. He’s been captivating audiences onstage for years, first as an aspiring ballet dancer, and then in featured roles on Broadway. (He even graced our July/August 2012 cover while in Newsies.) Now a star of both stage and screen, Ryan chatted with DS about the making of Five Dances.
Dance Spirit: You started working on Five Dances more than a year ago. Can you tell us about the filming process?
Ryan Steele: The first things the cast learned were the five dances that are in the movie. We had three days of rehearsal with choreographer Jonah Bokaer, for 12 hours each day. Then we had a week or so break before filming. We filmed for only two weeks total—it was really quick.
DS: What was the hardest part of making the movie?
RS: The schedule. As a dancer, I’m used to rehearsing for weeks or even months before performing. But we would look at some scenes for the first time at 2 am and then film them at 8 the next morning. We also shot out of order, so I’d do a happy scene and then for the next scene on the schedule, I’d have to cry. That was a challenge.
DS: Your character, Chip, has a hard time as he enters the world of professional dance. Could you relate to his experience?
RS: Definitely. I think it’s realistic. My character is new to NYC and doesn’t really know what he’s getting himself into. That was my experience when I was 18 and first moving to the city. But Chip is very serious, and I’m a generally happy person. Having to do most of the scenes without cracking a smile was tough.
DS: What makes Five Dances different from other dance movies?
RS: During our initial rehearsals, director Alan Brown really paid attention to the way us dancers interacted in the studio—the relationships we formed and the things we said and did, down to putting on deodorant while talking to each other. Dancers have a level of comfort with each other that other people don’t. Five Dances does a great job of diving into the world of dance and staying true to it.