In a city where only the best succeed, two radically talented people from opposite sides of the tracks need to find harmony to achieve their dreams in the highly-motivating fish-out-of-water film “High Strung” starring award-winner ballerina Keenan Kampa and multi-talented artist Nicholas Galitzine.
At the heels of phenomenal dance movies such as “Step Up” and “Street Dance,” “High Strung” brings two different worlds together when Ruby Adams (Kampa), a dancer from the Midwest on scholarship in New York City eventually crosses paths with Johnnie Blackwell (Galitzine), a British musician, playing for money in the subway tunnels. Ruby’s world is classical and disciplined; Johnnie’s is improvisational and street smart. When a hip-hop battle gone wrong throws these two artists together, they immediately clash but can’t deny it when sparks begin to fly. Their lives quickly get entangled in the pitfalls that come with competing in New York City. With the help of a dynamic dance crew called The Switch Steps, Ruby and Johnnie must find a way to save Ruby’s scholarship and keep Johnnie from being deported. In an action-packed extravaganza combining cutting edge hip-hop with contemporary and classical dance, the two must navigate their opposing worlds and prepare for a competition where winning or losing will change their lives forever.
The movie is supported by standout performances from veteran actors Jane Seymour, Paul Freeman and Maia Morgenstern and features an original soundtrack of boundary-breaking commercial tracks blending styles of music in a way that already has the dance industry and social media talking. It’s brought to viewers by Broadway stars Michael and Janeen Damian and top choreographer Dave Scott (“Step up 2: The Streets;” “Stomp the Yard;” resident choreographer on “So You Think You Can Dance;” guest choreographer on “Dancing with the Stars”) and introduces the breathtakingly talented Keenan Kampa (Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet’s first American dancer) and Nicholas Galitzine (The Beat Beneath My Feet) alongside 62 of some of the World’s most exciting and original dancers from London, Paris, L.A. and New York.
“High Strung is inspired by Janeen’s experience when she was awarded a scholarship to Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York,” director Michael confides. “So it’s basically her story, her adventures, and what it was like for her moving to NY from a small town; like we have Ruby, our lead character in the film, coming from the Midwest.” Michael and Janeen started music and dance at a very young age under the tutelage of their respective mothers. Michael’s mother is a classical pianist, and Janeen’s was the artistic director of a ballet company.
With music playing such an intense role in the film, the soundtrack also had to be something very special. Fortunately Michael, who has enjoyed success as a singer/songwriter with hits like his 80s anthem “Rock On,” knew what he was looking for. “We were blown away by a piece of music we heard on So You Think You Can Dance by composer Nathan Lanier,” he explains. On top of that, Lanier is a virtuosic violinist, so it was a marriage made in heaven.” “We wanted something epic: a mash-up of classical orchestration, hip-hop and electric violin,” Michael offers. “What Nathan created for us went beyond our expectations. The score is a major character in the film, and brings an emotional element. We’ve had a lot of people leaving screenings with goose bumps.”
In addition to the original score, “High Strung” also has 13 original songs ranging from hip-hop to pop to EDM. “It’s quite an odyssey of music; I have quite a few connections, thank goodness – so I pulled every favor,” Michael confesses. “We’ve compiled some awesome songs by an incredible group of talented international artists.” The result is an original soundtrack of fresh commercial tracks along with a boundary-breaking original score blending styles of music in a way that is already leaving tongues wagging.
“High Strung” opens April 20 nationwide from Pioneer Films.