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Review: ‘High Strung Free Dance’ is Full of Powerful Romanticism

The romantic dance sequel works as a standalone film.

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!


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.

Juliet Doherty and Jane Seymour in High Strung Free Dance
Juliet Doherty and Jane Seymour

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.


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.


High Strung Free Dance promotional photo featuring Thomas Doherty and Juliet Doherty dancing.
Juliet Doherty and Thomas Doherty (no relation)

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.


Juliet Doherty and Harry Jarvis in High Strung Free Dance
Juliet Doherty and Harry Jarvis

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.


“Hello, Gorgeous.”


“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My

feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me

to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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By on October 8th, 2019

About Amber Topping

Amber works as a writer and digital publisher full-time and fell in love with stories and imagination at an early age. She has a Humanities and Film Degree from BYU, co-created The Silver Petticoat Review, contributed as a writer to various magazines, and has an MS in Publishing from Pace University, where she received the Publishing Award of Excellence and wrote her thesis on transmedia, Jane Austen, and the romance genre. Her ultimate dreams are publishing books, writing and producing movies, traveling around the world, and forming a creative village of talented storytellers trying to change the world through art.

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5 thoughts on “Review: ‘High Strung Free Dance’ is Full of Powerful Romanticism”

    • I watched the movie, “High Strung Free Dance”. I was rooting for Charlie because like Berlow they both were seeking an opportunity to demonstrate their special abilities. Through their passion for the arts they reconnected on stage at the end. I believe Berlow realized that Zanders was in love with the play than with her, especially when he lied to her about reinstating Kayla into the play. In the end of the play Barlow stood their looking at Charlie and prance through the air extending her hand out. As a result, Charlie reached out to her and ran to grab Barlow’s hand before she was about to be swept away. They embraced and passionately kissed as a way of expressing their love for each other. Throughout the movie< Barlow had the hots for Zanders, but throughout the film, she felt neglected because he was too involved in his masterpiece and the leading lady ( Kayla). In the end, Barlow and Charlie were the only two standing alone, facing each other. The intense vibration between them reconnected their feelings toward each other. One that is wholesome, genuine, and innocent.

  1. Wow! Thank you for your comment, Monin! I watched this with my adult daughter, and we both just kind of looked at each other at the end and said, “What”?? The ending was abrupt! But…thank you for explaining it!

  2. Just saw it on Netflix….I liked the movie overall, mostly the dancing & music. Both great. The love story was shallow & predictable. I thought Charlie changed the ending because I thought he was told NOT to reach out to Kayla during a rehearsal, resulting in her blowing away. However, in the end, Charlie reached for subbing Barlow, pulling her into an embrace and kiss. Zander’s tear at the end was confusing….I don’t think he was glad he lost the girl, but I think he became emotional with the new, spontaneous ending (which he didn’t create), that proved to be intense. Charlie was bold to change the ending of a Broadway show, risking his job for future shows/productions. Not too realistic, as I highly doubt that would happen in a prestigious production.


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