Monday, May 31, 2010

Interview: George Sampson (StreetDance 3D)

Dance may have been part of cinema since its very inception, but now it’s in 3D. What’s more, the Brits have beaten Hollywood to the punch, pitting ballerinas against street dancers on the cobbled lanes of London. Well, not quite. Co-star George Sampson elucidates the finer points of street dance and the irony that the whole film revolves around finding a proper rehearsal space.

“There was no street part to it! he exclaims. "I mean there was for me, I started in the street when I used to busk, and I was the only one doing it.”

“You can do it anywhere but it is important to get rehearsal down because everyone wants to be the best crew, [and] to be that you need a rehearsal space with mirrors and you all need to be in synch, make sure it’s looking the best it can, or flawless. And the best place to practice is a big rehearsal space similar to the one in the film.”

Sampson would know, the 16-year-old has been dancing since he was 6, busked for two years (“When I was a kid.”) and won Britain’s Got Talent at the tender age of 14. “My Mum worked a lot and so a lot of days she put us into singing camps and different performing arts camps,” he says, “and I got used to that being a natural hobby: singing, dancing and acting. I think my dancing was always a bit further ahead of everything and people spotted me and said, ‘you were born to dance.’”

After his reality show win, Sampson brought out a DVD, Get Up On The Dance Floor/Headz Up ("It was a biographical music album, it had about four or five songs on it and an interview and a day in the life.") directed by Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini, who then created a character for him in StreetDance 3D. As Eddie, the cheeky coworker desperate to join Carly’s (Nichola Burley) crew, Sampson ends up sharing a few scenes with the trailblazing head of the ballet school, played by the divine Charlotte Rampling.

“She was amazing,” he says. “She was just a nice person to get along with; she’s just one of them people, she knows she can act, she’s there to just do her thing and make new friends. She was a very inspiring person to work with.”

Having such a consummate actor grounding the film, Sampson and his costars are freed up to do what they do best, dance. And Eddie even gets a solo in the film’s climactic event.

“That was the best bit! Because that’s what I’m used to, a big strong audience. Going from just being a busker on the street with a big crowd, then going to live shows then Britain’s Got Talent was kind of my first camera event, but even then they had a live audience so I’d never not danced in front of a live crowd before. So that for me was the best bit because I knew that’s what I bounce off, that’s what makes me best.”

On set, the film’s dancers made for an energetic shoot, “It flew by, absolutely flew by!” he says. “I guess it’s hard because you have to keep doing things over and over again, but I think with other dancers there, the adrenaline of the day, [and] they had a live crowd to help out, it was very good.”

One of the most striking elements of street dance is its theatricality and iconography, with crews all kitted out in identical label clothing and dancing under specially designed logos. “It’s a showcase,” Sampson says. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to do it properly. Your clothing, you all have to match what you’re doing. If people came on in their everyday clothes and started dancing you’d just think, ‘well, do they even know each other?’ Whereas if five guys walk on and they’ve all got the same hats on, they’ve all got the same thing, you can tell they’ve rehearsed this and they’ve gone to extra lengths to make this real for everyone. So I think you get more street cred for what you wear.”

Sampson now has his own crew, “Access 2 All Areas, there are four or five of us and I love it.” And he takes his training very seriously: “It’s deadly important. You always need to be improving; once people have seen you, they’ve seen every move you can do and the only way to show them something a bit better than you were last time is to do something new. And to do something new you’re going to have to train a hell of a lot.” He describes street dance is an amalgam, “You could easily fit about thirty styles around street dance. I guess I’ve got seven or eight mastered, and I do more, but I’ve got seven or eight locked down.”

“I’m proficient in street dance as a typical routine: quick, get in there, get your message across kind of dance form. Then break dance, which is all your head spinning, your flips, the gymnastics, which is obviously more flips, popping, locking, which is kind of waving, but there are so many!”

Indeed StreetDance 3D pivots around this eclectic mix of styles compared with the more straight laced classical ballerinas, but Sampson thinks everyone can get along.

“There’s a competitive little thing to it because ballet dancers think their dance should be the more stereotypical kind of dance to learn, and street dancers are very [motivated by] street cred and are very rebellious to that. But people will see that they can do it together.”

As a rising star on the UK dance scene, Sampson is abundantly enthusiastic about being part of the first ever 3D dance film.

“I think it’s going to add life,” he concludes, “You can watch a film and you know it’s a film [but] I think dance is such an interactive kind of sport, where people want to see it live, they want to see a backflip in their face and I think the best way to get that across is obviously in 3D. I think it can only add to the tension of the dance.”

Published by Street Press Australia
Streetdance 3D Australian release date: 27 May 2010

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