It’s time to “step up” this time in China with this film from the director of Blade of the 47 Ronin.

Tie Hou was one of the best dancers to come from a small village and he even had his own crew. However, one night would end up costing him a two-year stint in prison. Upon his release, he reunites with his crew, even asking for forgiveness from Xiao Fei, who he thought he was protecting and harbors feelings for her the night he was arrested. Working at a construction site, a dance during lunch break grabs the attention of He Chuan, an aspiring dancer who was betrayed by his friend during an audition for a new dance squad.

At first, He and Tie Hou are at odds with each other over their social statuses, not to mention Tie Hou’s jealousy when He gets Xiao Fei’s attention. However, they soon realize they do work together and form the Sky Crew along with Tie Hou’s crew. When they nearly defeat the popular Black Tiger Crew at regionals, their moves garner the attention of the Phantom Crew, the most popular dance squad in the United States. As they are on tour in Asia, they want to challenge Sky Crew to a battle, but Black Tiger isn’t backing down. To make matters worse, the man Tie Hou beat up two years ago wants revenge.

Announced in 2017, the popular Step Up franchise would be moving to China with 90’s martial arts movie actor and stuntman turned filmmaker Ron Yuan directing. The film’s story is something similar to the film Stomp the Yard, in which the protagonist ends up arrested then released and seeks redemption within himself by joining a dance crew. The story has a few antagonists in the forms of a thug seeking revenge against our hero, a rival dance crew, and even the corrupt judges who stand out to make sure the team they form is the best.

The cast is quite eclectic here, but they work well together. Chinese hip-hop dancer Huang Jingxing, known as “Superdino” leads the cast as the conflicted Tie Hou, who just wants to keep doing what he loves despite his past. Meiqi Meng as “little sister” Xiao Fei is the one element that helps keep Tie Hou alive in spirit alongside his brother Tie She, played by Taiwanese boybander Owodog. Yu Jianbo is great as He Chuan, a rich boy whose audition leads to an injury by fellow dancer Dai, played by Korean star Kim Sung-joo.

The dance choreography, by Will “Wildabeast” Adams and Janelle Ginestra, is top notch here, especially for a production such as this one. Superdino gets to show why he is one of the best dancers to come from China and the dance battles, especially the three-way battle between the Sky Crew, the rival Black Tiger Crew (led by Dai) and USA’s Phantom Crew (in which choreographer Ginestra is a part of here), is quite enjoyable. There are also a few fight scenes mixed in the film, choreographed by Blade of the 47 Ronin choreographer Zack Roberts, who also appears as one of the revenge seeking thug’s crew. The fights are decently done for this genre with Owodog and Superdino using what they can and know against the thug and his men.

Step Up: Year of the Dance is nothing too special, but has some great dance battles and a few fights that may satisfy some viewers along with its story of a protagonist seeking redemption within himself. Worth checking out at least once.


A Liongate/Yue Hua Pictures production. Director: Ron Yuan. Producers: Wen Wen, Ge Tianhui, Zeng Tian, Jennifer Gibgot, Adam Shankman, Jon M. Chu, Dede Nickerson. Writer: Erica Li. Cinematography: Zhang Longtao. Editing: Jiang Yong.

Cast: Huang “SuperDino” Xingjing, Meiqi Meng, Yu Jianbo, Ching “Owodog” Ho-Chung, Zhou Yixuan, Yu Yang, Qu Jingjing, Wang Yi.