StreetDance is the latest dance movie to hit the big screen in recent years as it brings together the talent of the likes of George Sampson and Flawless.
In order to win the Street Dance Championships, a dance crew is forced to work with ballet dancers from the Royal Dance School in exchange for rehearsal space.
As experienced music video directors, Max and Dania had worked with some of the UK’s best street dancers on previous projects, and they brought that knowledge to StreetDance. "We had worked with some of the dancers and most of the extras before," explains Dania.
"It makes for a great atmosphere on set, adds Max. "It’s a family vibe. But nobody was cast just because we know them. We went through weeks of really rigorous auditions."
In fact, the audition process for the film was unique in that open auditions were held up and down the country to find the UK’s best street dance talent. "We set up a website to advertise the auditions and, almost immediately, it crashed because so many people had tried to apply," says Richardson, shaking his head in disbelief.
"We eventually auditioned over a thousand people in cities around the UK, including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Then the shortlisted ones went down to London and we started whittling it down. It’s a really tough audition because not only do you have to be an amazing dancer, but also you have to be able to act."
"The whole process took weeks," says Dania. "But there were certain people that we called in to do a closed audition because we really wanted them, like Steph Nguyen, who plays Steph in the film. In real life she’s a b-girl champion.
"She won one of the biggest world championships in street dance, the Juste Debout in Paris. To have won that competition against all those guys; she’s phenomenal."
But Richardson admits the biggest casting challenge was finding someone to play the lead role of Carly. "I saw Nichola Burley in her first film, Love + Hate, back in 2005," he explains.
"And I remember thinking that she completely stole the film so I was keen to find something to work with her on. Then, completely coincidently, the casting director, Gary Davy, put her forward for StreetDance.
"Of course, I knew that she could act, but I didn’t know she could dance, so we put her through some gruelling tests to make sure she could handle it. Kenrick Sandy, our street dance choreographer, really put her through her paces."
Burley admits that the audition process was terrifying. "I had several auditions and, when I saw the standard of dancing, I was blown away," she says. "It was scary to watch because I knew that I was up against them in the dancing part of the auditions.
"I’ve danced since I was very young, and I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so I am a trained dancer but mainly in ballet, contemporary and jazz. I soon realised it’s all about how you hold yourself. Movements in contemporary dance are very fluid and continuous, whereas street dance is quite rigid, so you have to retrain your body."
Richardson says that one of the best things about the film’s unique audition process was that it threw up lots of fresh, exciting new talent, and some fun surprises.
"During the casting process, we kept adding roles into the script because there were people that we
really wanted to be in the film but there wasn’t a role for them," he laughs.
"George Sampson is the obvious one, but we also created the role of Isabella for Rachel McDowall and the role of Steph for Steph Nguyen."
And, of course, there was always a key role for dance troupe Flawless, who play The Surge, bitter rivals to Carly’s crew in the film. "James came to us at first because he wanted to know more about the UK dance scene," explains Marlon 'Swoosh' Wallen, the choreographer behind Flawless.
"He’d had this idea for quite some time, but he wanted to know what actually goes on: how it works with regards to competitions and what we go through. Then he asked us to come on board as the Surge crew, and we were very happy and excited to do that."
So, after such an arduous audition process, Richardson must have become something of a street dance expert himself? "No, no!" he laughs. "In fact, I have actually gone out clubbing with some of these dancers and it’s the most humiliating thing on earth.
"It’s not like going out with your friends: these guys are the best dancers in Europe. Very
StreetDance is released 21st May
tagged in Streetdance