Film & TV

Dance and racism are the ultimate star-crossed lovers in ‘Make Your Move’

It’s hard to believe a former “So You Think You Can Dance” alum and current “World of Dance” judge once starred in a Romeo and Juliet-inspired movie with a wildly popular K-pop idol, but that’s exactly what “Make Your Move” is.

The 2014 independent film,  a joint venture between South Korean entertainment companies SM Entertainment and CJ Entertainment, follows Donny (Derek Hough) and Aya (Boa Kwon) as they meet and navigate through their brothers’ dance club rivalry after Donny skips parole in New Orleans to make a career out of tap in New York.

While the film tries to make sense of Kwon’s own personal identity with her being a South Korean pop star who has spent a lot of her music career in Japan, the movie ultimately leaves room to make Asians seem monolithic.

The glaringly obvious stereotypes are hard to miss: Aya is seen as docile by her brother Kaz and other people in her life, Kaz is portrayed as a troublemaker whose incompetent at his job (why is he named Kaz if he’s Korean anyway? Were his parents so intent on giving him a Japanese-sounding name?), and his Wall Street Journal business partner Michael oggles Aya and sees her as some sort of token, threatening Donny at one point to stay away from the “gourmet Chinese” and stick to “dollar carryout.” (Was this seriously a movie from 2014?)

Michael (far left) talking to Aya, her friend and Kaz.

Like other movies written and directed by the film’s Duane Alder, “Make Your Move” follows the stale and formulaic pattern of a woman meeting her love interest through dance. Romantic dance films have rarely strayed away from this worn-out pattern since the commercial success of Alder’s “Step Up” series, though the “Make Your Move” stars lack romantic chemistry.

Aya and Donny re-meeting after their first encounter.

And while Aya’s dance troupe incorporates hip-hop and the use of taiko drums into their routines, using Asian culture as an accessory and as a way to differentiate the film from other generic dance movies cheapened the plot in the end. Choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon D’umo may have staged dance routines a step higher than the film’s low-bar dialogue as well, but the one thing they couldn’t sell was the competitiveness of tap, especially in an emerging, highly innovative world of hip-hop.

The safest bet is to make your move away from this substandard, monotonously-written film.

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