On March 20, a TV special titled “Step Into…The Movies” premiered on ABC, before then being released on Hulu. The iconic sibling duo Derek and Julianne Hough, alongside many other well-known dancers such as John Stamos and Jenna Dewan, recreated famous movie dance sequences from films like “La La Land,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Dirty Dancing.” Dance is often regarded as a less important aspect of movies, so as someone who has danced for years, I was excited to see these moments being celebrated for how outstanding they truly are. However, what could’ve been a touching and beautiful homage to iconic dances from films of all decades instead turned out to be a cheesy program with much less dancing than expected.
I was expecting to watch multiple acclaimed dances with beautiful sets, costumes, and superb dancing, perhaps featuring some scenes showing the rehearsal process. Instead, much of the special focused on Derek and Julianne Hough trying to put together the show with very little time. This was clearly just acting — and not very good acting at that — which made the whole production feel fake and generally unimpressive. I found myself skipping through the scenes of the Houghs’ “planning” because I was mostly interested in the rehearsals and dances. It seemed as though the directors wanted to add some sort of a plot to make the show more interesting. But it came across as forced and unnecessary. The appeal of the special was watching iconic dances, which is how it was advertised, so anyone who was enticed to tune in would have been interested in the dances; there was no need for the added aspect of a faux storyline.
Despite the forced plot line's major shortcomings, the rehearsals and dances were still very enjoyable to watch. Just like how many episodes of “Dancing with the Stars” feature the practices leading up to the performance, “Step Into…The Movies” brought the viewer into the rehearsals. In the special, though, the rehearsals were treated as a side aspect and were not shown nearly as much as I would have liked. I was eager to see more of the training process because watching the final product is even more enjoyable when you know how much work has gone into making it happen. It is also nice to get to know the dancers a bit better through scenes of them practicing, messing up, and interacting off-stage.
Another positive aspect of the special was having those involved in the original dances featured in some way. For example, Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the film “Dirty Dancing,” was involved in “Step Into…The Movies,” providing feedback for the dancers during a rehearsal for the performance. I would have loved to see more people who were crucial to the original movies featured in equally crucial roles constructing the new pieces of the TV special.
While I was pleased to see so many dancers I recognized, I believe the special could have done a better job of featuring less well-known dancers or dancers who aren’t primarily known for their acting. Having A-list celebrities probably appealed to viewers who don’t know as much about the dance industry, but those dancers didn’t have to be the only people featured. When dance is the center of the show, I think it is more respectful and representative of the industry to include people for whom dance is the main aspect of their career. Lesser-known dancers are often overlooked, so a big production such as this one could have been a great way to support the careers of such dancers.
Ultimately, “Step Into…The Movies” was a letdown, and I would hesitate to recommend it to others. If you are interested in enjoying the well-executed dance pieces, I suggest doing what I did and skipping through the forced acting to find the impressive dancing and more authentic rehearsal scenes.