High Strung Free Dance, directed by Michael Damian and written with Janeen Damian, is centered on two struggling artists, a dancer and a pianist cast in a highly-anticipated Broadway show by a zealous, perfectionist choreographer. (BV: 3.0/5.0)
Review by Junior Associate Beatrice Viri
High Strung Free Dance is all about the hustle and bustle of New York City. The female protagonist, “Barlow” (Julia Doherty), is a telemarketing associate as her day job, but really aspires to be a dancer. Her budding career is full of never-ending rejections. Still, soon Barlow has the opportunity of a lifetime: an audition for the highly anticipated Broadway show Free Dance by budding choreographer “Zander” (Thomas Doherty, no relation).
Meanwhile, “Charlie” (Harry Jarvis) is also a struggling performer, working as a delivery boy for a deli while desperately searching for anyone who will let him indulge in his true passion, the piano. After almost being rejected again, Barlow boldly stands out after a chance to dance again and catches the eye of the ambitious Zander, who accepts her for his show. He volunteers to take her home after the audition, but on their way, they accidentally hit Charlie with Zander’s car. In a fit of ridiculousness, the dazed Charlie’s only wish is for Zander to take him to a gig he’s late for, and despite a few injuries, he blows Barlow away.
As it turns out, Zander is a stickler for perfection and demands only the best from his crew. This makes him incredibly difficult to work with, and only a few days into rehearsals, his pianist quits. As if fate, Charlie, the same day, delivers food from the deli; he pleads with Zander for a chance at showing off his skills, and it isn’t until Barlow vouches for him that Zander relents. Amazed by his innovation, Zander hires him. Then the real drama of High Strung Free Dance begins the blossoming “love triangle” between the three artists, as Charlie develops feelings for Barlow, who becomes Zander’s muse. Will the show be able to go on?
The plot of High Strung Free Dance might interest you, but truthfully, it’s recycled from most B-rated romance movies. Even then, it shouldn’t be viewed as a “movie.” It’s really mostly “art.” High Strung Dance showcases spectacular musical and dancing talent. Intense musical scores and vivacious, adrenaline-pumping choreography routines are the bulk of the content, coupled with gorgeous shots of the busy life of New York City. Visually, the film is gorgeous, but storywise, the script generic and predictable; the acting is laughably bad. Don’t expect much from that department.
Still, there were some positives in the story. A heartwarming side plot features Charlie growing closer with one of his regulars at the deli, a reclusive older woman named Rose (Kika Markham). She refuses to come out of her study whenever Charlie visits but encourages him to play her piano, and they bond over their love of music. As Rose opens up, Charlie discovers that she was a prolific musician, but unfortunately cannot play anymore — and in part, Charlie decides to play for her, too.
One thing in particular that stuck out to me was that the main leads are notably very white, though non-white dancers play Barlow’s friends and other side characters. The production company seems to be from Romania, which explains — but interestingly, brings attention to how white Broadway and dance can still be. That’s a personal observation, though, and probably not something the director thought of consciously.
High Strung Free Dance does its job in displaying talented performers, but otherwise, it isn’t really a “movie.” Its chaos matches the fast-paced lifestyle of New York City, and high-energy will at least keep you awake when watching, but it’s not really something that’ll leave a lasting impact.
© Beatrice Viri FF2 Media 11/03/2019
Does High Strung Free Dance pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
It does! Barlow and her friends have some wholesome friendships, at least.