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  • Writer's pictureKristyn Burtt

Get Ready for Fall’s Hottest Dance Movie: ‘High Strung: Free Dance’

Updated: May 25, 2020

In 2016, High Strung, a dance movie about a classical dancer following in love with a hip-hop violinist, became a pop-culture sensation. Director and co-writer Michael Damian, and co-writer Janeen Damien, decided to move forward with a sequel, High Strung: Free Dance, after the success of the first film.

The second film ties together the first and second film with Jane Seymour, who plays the strict dance teacher, Oksana. This time the focus is on her daughter, Barlow, charmingly played by Juliet Doherty. Barlow finds herself cast in a hot new Broadway show while entangling herself in a love triangle between a talented pianist, played by Harry Jarvis, and a temperamental choreographer, played by Thomas Doherty.

The movie, which will be released on Oct. 11, had a private screening on Monday night along with a Q&A with stars Harry Jarvis, Kerrynton Jones, composer Nathan Lanier and choreographer Tyce Diorio.

Although Diorio was the head choreographer, he pulled in several other choreographers to handle some of the specialized dance scenes.

"It was a good opportunity to work with new people. The dancers were from Europe, New York and LA. I also collaborated with choreographers like Phillip [Chbeeb], Miles Thatcher from the San Francisco Ballet and Nakul Dev Mahajan came in to do the Bollywood number," he explained. "We had a blast filming for three months in Europe. It was challenging, but it was all worth it."

Lanier, who has composed music for Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, was brought into the franchise after the Damiens heard his composition, "Torn" on Season 9 of SYTYCD.

"I did an extended version of 'Torn' in the first High Strung movie. That's how we started our collaboration," Lanier shared. "I love working with dancers and choreographers and I am fortunate to be able to do that."

Together Diorio and Lanier put the pieces together with original music and movement to create a visually stunning sequel to High Strung.

"It was like a puzzle. You had to in each moment, so working with Michael and Janeen, we came up with different concepts for parts of the music and how it would unfold," Diorio said. "Then Miles came in and Phillip joined us in Europe. It was a great process because I had never done a full dance film. I had to articulate movement to some of the dancers who didn't speak English. The language of dance is pretty universal."

Diorio had a hard time picking his favorite dance scene because there were so many memorable moments from a torrid ballet duet to Mahajan’s colorful Bollywood number as well as a high-energy nightclub piece with dueling pianos. However, he did offer some great advice for the young performers who attended the screening on Monday.

"If you have your sights set on making dance your career in the industry. I highly recommend that you stay with your craft and focus on the work and the process," he advised. "Be in class and study should be the main objective. Stay with a lot of integrity. Remember where you came from. Enjoy the process. You can't be in the result if you're not good in the process."


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