High Strung Free Dance is one of the rare examples when a sequel far surpasses the original. While High Strung was an entertaining romantic dance film, it was nothing more than a fun ride. High Strung Free Dance, on the other hand, is much more compelling and works as a standalone movie about the transcendent power of artistic creation and Romanticism – with a compelling love triangle added into the mix, of course!
THE STORY AND CHARACTERS OF HIGH STRUNG FREE DANCE
High Strung Free Dance tells the story of three different performers living in New York City. Zander Raines (Thomas Doherty), the young but famous choreographer creating a hot new Broadway show: Free Dance; Barlow (Juliet Doherty), the struggling Broadway dancer; and Charlie (Harry Jarvis), a talented composer and pianist working as a delivery driver. Raines soon hires them to help fulfill his creative vision, only for the three to become tangled in a love triangle.
If you’ve seen the first film, you’ll notice the sequel doesn’t feel much like a continuation. The only connection between the two is the character of Oksana (Jane Seymour), a dance teacher at Manhattan Conservatory of the Arts.
In the sequel, Oksana has a more significant stake in the story since the movie’s about her daughter, Barlow. She wants her daughter to follow the classical ballet route for her career, while Barlow intends to carve out her path, following a different dream.
Ultimately, High Strung Free Dance feels more like a story in the same universe as High Strung than a sequel.
THE SUPPORTING PLAYERS
Besides the talented leads, the film has some fantastic supporting players. Desmond Richardson (Chicago), Ace Bhatti (Bohemian Rhapsody), and likable newcomer Jorgen Makena as a Britney Spears-like pop princess rivaling Barlow for the lead in the Broadway show standout. You’ll also want to watch for some fun cameos, including Nigel Lythgoe from So You Think You Can Dance.
The most compelling supporting character, however, is Rose, played by the brilliant English actress, Kika Markham (Mr. Selfridge). Rose, a reclusive former pianist, shares a heartwarming friendship with Charlie. Her scenes foreshadow the elements of “madness” inherent in creativity and creation, revealed later in the choreography during the final sequence.
THE INVENTIVE CHOREOGRAPHY
The script from Janeen and Michael Damian is good, the acting fine (especially from the mesmerizing and brooding Thomas Doherty), the love triangle convincing, and the original soundtrack excellent. But it’s the choreography and dancing that has an innovative flair. From a unique and fun 1920s jazz number to some sexy dance partnering, this movie has brilliant choreography with talented dancers.
But the final dance sequence of the film is why you should see this movie. If Lord Byron and Percy Shelley were choreographers, the final 15-minute dance sequence could have been choreographed by them. That’s what makes this movie unique from the others – even with an imperfect script. The award-worthy choreography from Tyce Diorio (So You Think You Can Dance) is some of the best I’ve ever seen in a dance movie.
Uniquely, the film is a love letter to Romanticism (aka the Romantic Age) and the emotional power of creating art, feeling passion, and seeking out individuality. You’ll notice the dancers and musicians even wear period-appropriate 19th-century costumes during the final performance as the uncontrollable power of nature blows the dancers around the stage.
The allusion to Romanticism is undeniable. Thomas Doherty captures the obsessive, enchanted experience of creation and the influence of Romanticism the most.
Thus, if you watch the movie with that in mind, you’ll understand the unique happy ending for all – turning the love triangle into something strangely satisfying.
Now, while the movie is good, it’s not up to the same standard writing-wise of famous classics like Dirty Dancing or Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire dance flicks. However, the choreography is genuinely innovative, and the 15-minute dance finale pure perfection.
So, if you love movies like Center Stage, appreciate Romanticism, and love dance as an art form, this is a must-see film.
Where to Watch: The movie releases this Friday on October 11th. So, check out your local theater listings and see it on the big screen while you can.
Content Note: Rated PG for some language.
After you see High Strung Free Dance, let me know what you thought. Were you rooting for Zander or Charlie? Did you love the inventive choreography? Drop a comment below.
(Photos Courtesy of Sicily Publicity/GVN Releasing)
I received a free screening of this film to write an honest review on The Silver Petticoat Review. All opinions are my own.