Did you know music is like dance? It’s a link to the soul. It can make people laugh. It can make people cry.
High Strung is a cheeseball dance romance flick from 2016, directed by Michael Damian. Fresh-faced ballerina Ruby (Keenan Kampa) begins her scholarship at the Manhattan Conservatory of the Arts and meets Johnny (Nicholas Galitzine), the moody sexy bad boy – he wears a leather jacket and an earring! – who’s actually just a pouty English kid with a tragic back story but without a Visa. He practises shirtless and boxes when he’s not busking in the cleanest, most photogenic subway in Manhattan. Oh, apparently Johnny’s tragic backstory is that his grandfather died once.
Fortunately the Annual String & Dance competition is upon us. The prize is $25,000 dollars and a scholarship to the Conservatory! Ruby has to save her best friend Jazzy who almost gets expelled because she just likes to party. And finally the boy, the girl, and the group of hip-hop street dancers Johnny shares a gigantic apartment with put on a show to defeat the rich jerks and help Johnny win his Visa. This all happens in Ruby’s first week of college.
The film is so earnest it tips into some hilariously weird moments. There’s an alpha male violin-off, amazingly; an impromptu ceilidh at an Irish bar; and the sweetest, most helpful cops in the whole city. Ruby’s tutor had both his hips broken in a concentration camp – but you know the saying, right? dancers dance, no matter what. Illegal street-dance gangs with names like The Work Crew and The Reapers battle each other like we’re watching a toe-tapping version of The Warriors for this stinking, sterilised, gentrified, anodised century.
Obviously the two leads have all the chemistry of two sticks of wood rubbing against each other, but if you watch the film at double speed it takes on a hallucinatory quality that’s rather enjoyable at a time any escape from reality is to be welcomed.
Stay safe and stay well, everyone.