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STEP UP REVOLUTION

The Mob Assembles
Step Up Revolution, like its predecessors, brings together a young man and woman who might seem on the surface to have little in common, but their mutual love for dance blossoms into a passion that changes their lives. Sean Asa (Ryan Guzman) is the rebellious son of working-class Cuban immigrants who finds self-expression in street dance; Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick) is an aspiring contemporary dancer torn between the privilege provided by her father's wealth and her own artistic aspirations.

"So much of these movies comes down to the casting," says Jennifer Gibgot. "We got incredibly lucky with our leads. They are the heart and soul of the movie. Once we found them, we were able to tailor the dance sequences for their special gifts."

Like Sean and Emily, Guzman and McCormick together become more than the sum of their parts, says Smith. "There's incredible chemistry between Kathryn and Ryan. They're great friends off screen, and it really shows on screen. The movie challenged them, but they were totally up for it, killing it every day."

Guzman, who comes from the world of Mixed Martial Arts, had never danced professionally before, and while the filmmakers were impressed by his audition, they were unsure that he was up to the challenging choreography. "He walked in the door with incredible charisma," says Smith. "He was a very strong actor, but he had no dance training at all. Other people were flying in from tours with Rihanna and Britney Spears to audition, and here's this Mixed Martial Arts fighter who never danced before."

But Guzman defied expectations with a mixture of grit, determination and natural ability. "Every choreographer he worked with said that either he had danced in a past life or he was snowing everybody, because he picked it up so brilliantly," says Gibgot. "Ryan turned out to be a natural. There's nothing that he wasn't able to do¡ªhip-hop, salsa, everything we threw at him, he did it."

Aware of the producers' concerns, Guzman responded by immersing himself in the learning process. He says their doubts made him work that much harder to prove himself. "I was in awe of what was going down around me. The audition process was really scary for me, especially free-styling in front of a bunch of people, but it made me that much more motivated. I was practicing until one o'clock in the morning, and then showing up early to do my thing. I was a little shaky when I saw all the professional dancers in their element, but I pushed past the fear. Even though they had a dance double ready to fill in for me, I said, no way. This is my movie, I want to do everything."

He gives credit to the film's team of top choreographers for molding him into a dancer in record time. "I have been fight training for years, but dance training was as intense as anything I've ever done in my life," he says. "It's physically, mentally and emotionally draining. But then you look around, and you see the dancers having fun, with big smiles on their faces. I could be frustrated, but when I saw that, it always lifted my spirits."

The actor is honored to be a part of the Step Up tradition. "All the movies have been feel-good, date movies," he says. "But I do believe the concept for this one is unique. There are no more dance battles, plus it captures the unique feel of the diverse neighborhoods of Miami. My character has had a rough upbringing. He learned to be a leader on the go. What he wants now is to get his crew to the next level artistically and financially in order to enrich everybody's lives. But his boss wants to destroy his neighborhood, and he's trying to save it using dance. It's an inspiring concept."

Guzman says he was lucky to have a talented and supportive director to guide him through his big screen debut. "Scott Speer is an amazing director. When he needs to be serious, he's serious, but for the most part he was very light©\hearted. He's very detailed. And he knows how to talk actors, too."

The producers had no doubt Kathryn McCormick, familiar to fans of the television show "So You Think You Can Dance," would be able to handle the dance moves. But she had never acted before. "We knew she would ace the choreography," says Gibgot. "Whenever I saw her on the show, I was completely mesmerized. And she looks like a movie star. We took a chance and really worked with her on the acting. She stepped up to the challenge beautifully."

Adds Smith: "With acting, what it comes down to is whether or not you believe what they're saying. Kathryn has that going for her naturally, even though she'd never acted before. And, like the character, she lives and breathes dance, so that passion is genuine."

When Emily steps outside her privileged existence to join The Mob, she begins to question everything she once accepted as true. "Her world turns upside down," says McCormick. "Everything she believes is twisted, and she had no idea it was coming. She doesn't want to see her father hurt or embarrassed, but she's stuck between him and Sean."

According to McCormick, acting forced her to learn to trust in a different way. As a dancer, she has always depended on herself. "As an actor, you definitely have to drop your ego," she says. "You have to dive into the moment and listen to the person who's talking to you. Scott was an incredible director. I always trusted him to tell me the truth. I was really grateful to have someone who cared so much.

"We had a lot of dance rehearsals, and then we had acting rehearsals on the side," she continues. "At first, when I was in a dance rehearsal, I couldn't focus on lines, and vice versa. But eventually I found myself in the dance rehearsals thinking, how would Emily do this? It added a different layer."

In fact, McCormick and Guzman complemented each other's natural skills, says Smith. "It was actually an advantage that we didn't have two experienced actors who didn't know how to dance or two great dancers who didn't know how to act as our leads. Kathryn and Ryan each brought a different skill set. They raised each other's games."

A career in acting was not necessarily on McCormick's radar before she got the call to star in the film. "This is something I never in a million years thought I would be doing," she says. "It is definitely a step up from what I've been doing and it's one of the most challenging things I've ever done."

Both she and Guzman have come into their own as rising stars in this film, says director Speer. "The sky's the limit for them," he adds. "I hope it was a great experience for them. For me, it was an absolute pleasure working with them. "

Sean's budding romance with Emily creates a triangle within The Mob. The third and most troublesome point is Sean's childhood friend Eddy. Mistrustful of the newcomer from the start, Eddy is enraged when he learns that Sean's new girlfriend is the daughter of the powerful real-estate developer threatening his home. Played by Misha Gabriel, Eddy is The Mob's cocreator and computer genius, but he has dance skills to match anyone in the film.

"Eddy is a hothead with a chip on his shoulder," says Gabriel. "He's passionate, he's loyal and he's Sean's best friend. They created The Mob to give these kids a voice and an identity. It's a way to put their work out there and maybe be somebody. It becomes an outlet for artistic protest, a way for them to stand behind what they believe. But when this girl comes into Sean's life, it throws Eddy off and all hell breaks loose."

The son of a Russian ballet t

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