Click here to get the inside scoop on High Strung: Free Dance's leading lady, Juliet Doherty!
1. It's by artists, for artists.
Both High Strung and High Strung: Free Dance are the brainchildren of husband-and-wife team Michael and Janeen Damian, who write and produce the films together. Janeen brings loads of expertise as a former professional dancer who studied at the School of American Ballet before switching to commercial dance, performing alongside Michael Jackson, Prince, Elton John, George Michael, and Paula Abdul. Michael, who also directs the films, brings his own artistic flair, thanks to a background on Broadway and in the music industry.
2. The dancing is nonstop…
High Strung: Free Dance's moves were created by a dream team: head choreographer
Tyce Diorio and associate choreographers Myles Thatcher, Phillip Chbeeb, and Nakul Dev Mahajan. There are more than 120 dancers from all over the world in the film, including Melissa Chapski from the Dutch National Ballet, and principal dancers from Bucharest's National Opera Ballet. "There's everything from Great Gatsby–style theatrical choreo to very classical styles," Diorio says. "Myles and I created a contemporary duet for Juliet and Thomas that's stunning and emotional, but there's also a stylized heels piece during an audition scene." Diorio oversaw all of the dance in the film, while Thatcher was responsible for classical and contemporary ballet—"anything in a pointe shoe," Thatcher says. "I learned a lot from seeing the other choreographers in their processes, how they approached the studio, how they used dynamics, and what details they focused on. It's amazing to see how all of these different forms of dance can be so different, yet speak the same way."
3. …and so is the drama.
Doherty in the "High Strung: Free Dance" finale (photo by Manuel Pacific, Courtesy Michael Damian)
"I would call the film an inspiring drama-romance," Janeen says. "It's not dark, but it's not cheeky, either. It's emotional." Though Janeen says the ending is "unusual," and that test audiences were torn over the result, she thinks the film's final moments will come as a "happy surprise."
4. There's an all-new cast—with the exception of one familiar (and famous) face from the original.
"You're going to learn a lot more about Oksana, Jane Seymour's character from the first film," Michael says. "But other than that, it's a new cast and a new story."
5. Ultimately, it's all about love.
"The film examines what it means to be a passionate young artist breaking into the industry, and the complexities that come with asking our art to support us both emotionally and financially," Thatcher says. "And it all boils down to love. Love of our art, love of each other, and love of humanity."
A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Scoop on 'High Strung: Free Dance'."