The Step Up
movie franchise has kicked things up a notch with their latest installment, Step Up Revolution
, now in theatres! Dondraico Johnson, one of the choreographers for the film, has been part of the Step Up family since the second movie. Rosemina Nazarali had the chance to sit down with Dondraico for a one-on-one where he talked all about Step Up Revolution
and his own influences as a dancer.
Can you tell us what Step Up Revolution is about?
Oh my God, Step Up Revolution
is about... it’s a movement and the dancers all get together and they’re doing these flash mobs for a cause. They aren’t just going around and doing flash mobs in malls, they are actually doing flash mobs with meaning. There’s like a little twist with a love story there. Whenever you want something, don’t be discouraged by no one, just stick to it. You have to fight it all the way through no matter what anyone says to you. If you really want it, you have to fight all the way through to the end. You have to stand up for yourself.
How is Step Up Revolution different from the other Step Up movies?
This one’s a little different. Most of the Step Up
movies have to do with battling. Step Up 2
were very hip-hop driven and a battle, of battling each other. But this one is about everyone coming together as one. It’s a unity and fighting together for the same cause.
I saw a preview of it and it looks like the dancing has been taken a step above.
If you’re a dancer, you will definitely enjoy this movie. There’s ballet, there’s jazz, there’s hip-hop, there’s this new thing called tricking, there’s the b-boys, there’s contortionists. Everything is covered under this movie. The amazing part, when you put all those elements together as one, the beautiful picture it creates.
What’s the atmosphere like on a movie set like Step Up Revolution?
The energy is out the roof! Because on a movie like this, you’ve got all these dancers, all these amazing artists, and everybody has different personalities and everyone has their gifts, and everyone is so nice and we’re just trying to help each other. The energy is just always up, it’s like a big party for three months. It’s so funny because a lot of the producers and people who had never worked on dance movies and had never been around a bunch of dancers all in one, they’re like ‘Oh my God, what is going on?’ And we’re like, ‘this is just what we do!’ We have fun and we get the job done.
How do you think people who watch Step Up Revolution will react to the movie?
I think that when people watch this movie, they are definitely going to come out inspired. Because the movie is definitely an inspiration for anybody who stood up and fought to get what they want or what they believe in... It’s inspiring, it’s a beautiful movie and it makes you want to live life.
From all the Step Up movies, what is one dance number that has stood out for you?
From Step Up 3
, I love the duet between Camille [Alyson Stoner] and Moose [Adam Sevani]. That was amazing. From this movie, from Step Up 4
, I have a few favorites. I absolutely love Ryan [Guzman, who plays Sean] and Cleopatra’s [Coleman, who plays Penelope] duet -- they have the most beautiful duet that was choreographed by Travis Wall that’s absolutely stunning to me. I also love the museum number in this movie. It’s brilliant. And the finale of the movie is amazing too.
How did you get started as a dancer and choreographer?
Well I started as a dancer and I’m a southern boy, I grew up in South Carolina, and I’m a sports guy -- football, baseball and track. My story is kind of funny. I got to college and a couple of my friends were dancers. And my friends were going to audition for the R&B pop group TLC.
The rapper Left Eye was having auditions for her production company, and [my friends] were like ‘come on Draico just come hang out with his.’ So I got to the audition and it was like literally over a thousand people and I’m sitting outside watching people do this routine, and in my head I’m like ‘I can do this routine.’ I’m looking at the routine and I know I can do this. And my friend was like ‘Are you going to try it?’ I’m like, ‘sure!’ So I got up, I auditioned, I made it through all the cuts. All my friends got cut and I made it through... out of like 1000 people I was one of the last 30 people standing. And they cut me. From there, I was like, I can do this. And they were like, ‘how long have you been dancing?’ And I was like, this is my first audition.
But I always loved to dance. Even with sports, if we were winning or losing, if I heard music I always would move.
What is your favorite style of dance?
I’m more of a hip-hop guy but I love lyrical. I love anything with a meaning. I love anything that gives me that feeling.
I did a bit of Googling and saw that you worked on Michael Jackson’s This Is It Tour. What was that like?
Working on This Is It
was amazing. It was an amazing experience for me. Michael Jackson is absolutely, by far, the greatest of all time. He was a perfectionist, but he was so genuine and nice. He’s amazing. And I had the chance to work with Janet as well because I danced for her at the Superbowl. You know, that big Justin moment, I’m down in there. And I worked on the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson
show. Me and Jamal Sims, the head choreographer for all the Step Up
s, me and him actually choreographed three of the numbers for the Cirque du Soleil Michael Jackson
What was it like watching Michael Jackson on stage, doing his thing, in his moment?
That feeling of watching someone who is such an icon and inspiration and a trendsetter and has touched the world -- this man touched the world in his music and his dance -- it was such an amazing feeling to watch him do that on stage. I don’t know a word, I can’t even describe it.
Step Up Revolution is in theaters now. To hear more from Dondraico Johnson, visit him on Facebook and Twitter (@draico).