High Strung Free Dance Parent Guide
A fresh faced young cast, impressive dance moves...and a relationship that feels a little queasy.
Parent Movie Review
When you’re driven to perform, chances are you’re aiming for the bright lights of Broadway. High Strung Free Dance tells the story of three artists chasing fame on the Great White Way.
Choreographer Zander (Thomas Doherty) has smoldering good looks (and a chiseled chest), an upper-class British accent, a firm belief in his own genius, and an apparently brilliant dance show he’s bringing to Broadway. And to make the show a smash hit, he needs to get the casting exactly right.
Charlie (Harry Jarvis) is a brilliant young pianist, living in a lonely artist’s garret – make that a grungy apartment over a Chinese restaurant. (Oops, I got carried away with movie clichés). He’s delivering deli orders on his bike and desperately looking for work as a musician. Then one night, after getting hit by a car, he sees a lovely young woman, and his luck turns…
Barlow (Juliet Doherty) is a beautiful, doe-eyed young dancer who’s making ends meet as a telemarketer while she gets cut from one audition after another. When her roommate disappears, having absconded with three months’ worth of rent, Barlow gets an eviction notice. Desperation makes her bold, and when she’s cut from Zander’s audition, she makes a gutsy attempt to get hired on the show.
I’m not sharing any spoilers when I divulge that the movie turns not just on the success of the production but on Barlow’s decision about which man she prefers. But, honestly, neither choice is worth getting too worked up over. Barlow and Zander manage to produce some on-screen chemistry, but the fact that her professional success relies on maintaining his favor gives the relationship a queasy feeling. And although Charlie gazes at Barlow with earnest, puppy dog eyes, the two seem like a couple of high school students who can’t quite get past the nervous laughter stage. It’s sweet, but awkward. Kind of like the movie itself.
Parents considering High Strung Free Dance for their dance-mad tweens and teens can be reassured by the very mild content issues in the film which boil down to two swear words and some revealing costumes and suggestive dance moves. But, frankly, the biggest issue in this movie is the Barlow-Zander plotline. When Zander offers his employee a ride, when he gives her the lead role and then kisses her, when he has a sexually charged dance with her, he is crossing some critically important lines in a post-#MeToo world. Parents are likely to be disturbed by Zander’s selfish treatment of a vulnerable young woman in his employ.
That being said, parents can be reassured that the relationship between Zander and Barlow doesn’t become abusive or violent. The relationship might have a power differential, but Barlow doesn’t get sexually assaulted and her job isn’t conditional on performing sexual favors. But parents need to know that it isn’t just another High School Musical with bright-faced young performers and catchy tunes - although musical kids will enjoy the show and it might encourage piano students to practice more diligently. The real reason to see the film isn’t for the plot or the dancing; it’s the opportunity it gives parents to discuss relationship boundaries with their daughters…and their sons.Directed by Michael Damian. Starring Jane Seymour, Thomas Doherty, Juliet Doherty, Harry Jarvis, Jorgen Makena. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release October 11, 2019. Updated April 6, 2020
Watch the trailer for High Strung Free Dance
High Strung Free Dance
Rating & Content Info
Why is High Strung Free Dance rated PG? High Strung Free Dance is rated PG by the MPAA for some language
Violence: A woman pushes another onto the floor. A bicyclist is hit by a motor vehicle; he has a cut on his forehead but no other injuries. An angry man throws a chair.
Sexual Content: Couples kiss on a few occasions. A man initiates a romantic relationship with a woman whose job depends on his favor. Almost all of the character frequently wear tight or revealing clothing on and off the stage. In one scene a woman removes her shirt and performs in her bra to get more attention in an audition. Dance moves are often sexually provocative. A man tells the woman he is dancing with to touch his chest; his shirt is unbuttoned.
Profanity: There are few uses of crude language in the movie: one term of deity, one scatological expression, and a coarse term for a woman.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Alcoholic drinks are seen in the background in a few scenes. Characters hold drinks and make toasts but are not seen drinking alcohol.
Page last updated April 6, 2020
High Strung Free Dance Parents' Guide
The past few years have seen an increasing acknowledgment of the conflict between power and consent in relationships. Here are some resources to help you have those discussions with your teens.
The Lily: Sexual Harassment among teens is pervasive. Here’s how parents can change that
The New York Times: 45 Stories of Sex and Consent on Campus
The New York Times: It’s Not That Men Don’t Know What Consent Is
Teens Health: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Bullying
RAINN.org: Warning Signs for Teens
Loved this movie? Try these books…
The classic novel for ballerinas-in-the-making is Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes.
A violinist struggles with anxiety and an inconvenient romance in Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez.
If you can’t get enough to Broadway musicals and want to see how they’re created, check out Jack Viertel’s non-fiction book The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built.
The most recent home video release of High Strung Free Dance movie is February 4, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
Other films that can be used to spark discussions about appropriate boundaries include Phantom of the Opera and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
For a dance movie that makes a serious statement, try out Swing Kids. Set in Nazi Germany, these kids use music and dance to make a political statement against an oppressive regime.
Dance can change lives in the here and now. To see how, watch the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom.
Few stars are more strongly associated with dancing than Fred Astaire. For lighthearted song-and-dance fun, watch him pair up with Judy Garland in Easter Parade. For another classic in the genre, watch Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain.
The Greatest Showman goes behind the scenes in a musical celebration of “putting on a show”.
If you want light, kid-friendly dance movies, the High School Musical series is what you and your kids are looking for. The three films are light on plot and heavy on catchy pop music and clean cut characters.
Ballerinas are a popular subject for animated kids’ movies. Two that will be a hit with young viewers are Leap! and Barbie in the Nutcracker.