Kathryn McCormick cuts a rug with Ryan Guzman in "Step Up Revolution."
In Step Up Revolution, the fourth installment of the dance flick franchise that started in 2006, professional dancer and actress Kathryn McCormick stars as Emily, a young dancer who moves to Miami with aspirations to turn pro. While there, she hooks up with Sean (Ryan Guzman), the leader of a dance crew that specializes in flash mobs, to save their neighborhood from a developer. During my interview with McCormick, who was a featured performer in the reality show So You Think You Can Dance until last year, we talked about similarities between her and her character and her own flash mob experiences.
When did you decide dancing was what you wanted to do with your life?
Well, my mother was a dancer all her life. She danced when she was pregnant with me. It started in the womb. She had a dance studio when I was little. I started doing dance competitions around the age of 10. I grew up at the studio. After high school, I was expected to go to college. It was a difficult decision because I wanted to go, but I didn't want to go for anything other than dance. But I wasn't sure I was capable of being a professional dancer. I ended up in L.A. because I felt like I had a purpose there. I started training a lot and auditioning for everything.
It sounds like the same story your character Emily is going through in Step Up Revolution.
It’s actually very similar. Emily is very relatable because she is at a point in her life where she is trying to figure out what she wants to do. She was going to college but she quit because she really wanted to be a dancer. She wants to do what is going to make her happy and not what anyone is telling her to do. I’m 21, so I’m really trying to figure out what I want and who I am. Emily is discovering that, too.
How do you know dancing is the right answer for you?
Dance is the love of my life. I feel the most alive when I do it. I feel it’s important. I feel the stories I am telling are important. There is an energy that happens inside me I can’t get any other way. I know it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
Did you feel any pressure to be a dancer growing up because your mother was dancing?
She never pushed me to dance. She was always the mom that was off to the side. She didn't want me to dance just because she did. I actually quit when I was 10 because I hated it. I didn't want to do it anymore. I took a year off and missed it and knew I was in love with it. I got to fall in love with it on my own terms.
Have you felt that way since? Taken a couple of months off?
No, I can barely even take a couple days off. I would just fall apart. I love moving. I love physical activity. There’s this energy I get when I sweat. I like working hard. I like improving and gaining and getting stronger.
How are the dance sequences different in Step Up Revolution from the first three movies in the series?
The others had a little bit of hip-hop, jazz and contemporary. As the movies have gone on, it turned into more battling scenes. But you’re not going to see any battling in this one. What I like about this one is that it’s not dancing for dancing’s sake. It’s dancing with a purpose. These dance scenes are not little, cheesy flash mobs. This is insanely incredible, next-level dancing. It’s all different styles. They brought in a bunch of different choreographers. I think it’s really relatable to the dance industry because there is versatility in it.
As a dancer, are flash mobs more exciting for you because of the dancing or do the reactions from the crowds you've just surprised play a role?
I love it! It’s my favorite part. There is a different energy when people know you’re performing compared to people who don’t know what is coming. Some of the girls from the movie did a flash mob at a convention for theater owners in Las Vegas. We flash mobbed their cocktail party. We came in waitress outfits, so we looked like we were coming to just clean up all their drinks. The next thing you know the music came on and we put our trays down and took our aprons off and we started dancing. It was so cool to see all their faces. They did not expect it at all. It was like electricity. It just brings so much life to the situation.