Here's some unexpected news: Screenwriter John Swetnam—the writer behind the fifth Step Up installment, Step Up: All In—is joining forces with none other than singer John Legend to create a new dance movie, Breaking Through. As unusual as that pairing seems, there's an even more unusual twist: Breaking Through is being called the world's first "found footage" dance film.
Right: John Swetnam. Photo via Mad Horse Films.
The faux-documentary found footage style is more commonly used in horror films—The Blair Witch Project pioneered the genre back in 1999—because the shaky, bleary quality of its supposedly amateur cinematography doubles the shock value of terrifying discoveries. But in a way it makes good sense to use it to capture dance. The majority of the dance films swirling around on YouTube are shot on phones and tablets; it's the way many dancers are used to watching dance. And there's an intimacy to the format that might bring dance and dancers to life in a way that high-gloss Hollywood dance films don't.
In addition to his Step Up experience, Swetnam has also worked on a couple of found-footage-driven films (Evidence and the upcoming Into the Storm). So if there's any man for this job, he's it. No word yet on Breaking Through's release date, but stay tuned!
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.