Although Step Up Revolution
-- the fourth installment of the successful dance movie franchise -- marks the theatrical film acting debut of Sasha Gabriel, you probably already recognize the talented actor/dancer's unique and flawless dance moves and his boyishly handsome face from a number of music tours, commercials and movies. If you watched This Is It
-- the documentary chronicling the final days of the late Michael Jackson as he rehearsed for the stunning live show for a tour that never happened -- you witnessed the incredible dance talents of Gabriel, who was one of MJ's featured backup dancers. "Working with Michael Jackson is one experience I will never forget," Gabriel says of the time he spent with the King Of Pop. "I learned so much from him, and the chance to work with him was a dream come true. Although we never got to do the show live, it was one of the best moments of my career."
And what a career it has been. It addition to Michael Jackson, Gabriel has gone on the road to dance alongside such huge pop music stars as Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Chris Brown, NeYo, Hilary Duff, John Legend, Kylie Minogue, Christina Milian and Omarion. Known in the entertainment world as a visionary and dynamic choreographer, Gabriel has also created dance routines for Justin Timberlake's "Future Sex Love Show," The Pussycat Dolls, the Cheetah Girls, Raven Symone, Cheryl Cole and Janet Jackson. Additionally, Gabriel has appeared -- dancing, course -- in such films as the Footloose
redux and the sequel, Centerstage 2.
If you haven't figured it out by now, Sasha Gabriel loves to dance.
"I always tell people I was two when I started to dance, because if I say six months or a year they might not believe that I started dancing from the moment I could walk," reveals the 25-year-old transplanted Californian. "My mother was a ballet teacher, so dance has always been in my family." The son of famed ballet dancer Irina Brecher, Gabriel spent the first half of his life on his toes. "The first fifteen years of my training was in ballet," he recalls. "I'm glad I studied ballet first, because ballet, to me, is one of the most intense and tough athletic artforms in the world. It could be harder than most sports. So, I was well-trained. When I was about 15, I started doing hip-hop, and I fell in love with it."
However, there was a time in Misha's life when he considered giving up dancing altogether, because many of the kids he grew up with in Colorado would taunt and make fun of him for spending his formative years in tights and ballet slippers. "I had a moment, around the time I was ten, where I wanted to be a basketball player, but I'm just not tall enough to play basketball professionally," Gabriel laughingly recalls. "My mom was real with me and told me that I probably wouldn't have a very good chance of being a basketball player. It was during the time I fell out of love with dancing, but it was only six months to a year. It was a quick moment, and I think it was partly because of peer pressure -- bullying and all that stuff. I overcame it, and it not only became my passion but my choice for what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."
Surprisingly, he experienced his life-changing, return-to-the-world-of-dance epiphany after watching a Hollywood motion picture. "I became convinced that dance was for me after seeing the movie Centerstage
-- which was like the first big dance movie," remembers Gabriel, who most recently choreographed and prominently appeared in a piece for the television sensation Dancing With The Stars.
"In the movie, I saw straight male dancers who were masculine and who were making out with hot girls. When I saw it, I knew right then that dancing was the life for me."
Not long after, Gabriel would score his proverbial professional "Big Break." "When I was about 16, a choreographer, who found me at a local dance conventions, threw me on my first world tour -- which was with Aaron Carter," Gabriel recalls with a huge grin. "It was every kid's dream. I spent the summer touring around the world, staying up late, doing whatever I wanted to and dancing in front of thousands of people every night -- which I think is what really got me. I went back home, and at 17, I told my parents, 'There is no way that I can still keep living here at home. I know what I am meant to do.' Since they come from the same world of dance, they were more than supportive. They helped me move out, graduate high school early, took my GED test, get it out of the way, and move to Los Angeles from my home in Colorado."
After becoming a critically-acclaimed hip-hop dancer and choreographer, Gabriel quickly became a hot commodity and household name within the entertainment world. Almost overnight, he was working with Timberlake, Janet and Michael Jackson and a host of other pop icons. After dominating the world of dance, Gabriel decided it was time to break into the world of film acting. Even tough he had garnered several roles in other dance movies, when his was offered the leading role of Eddy in Step Up Revolution,
Gabriel couldn't wait to get in front of the cameras.
"Personally, I think that anything that puts dance on the map, I'm up for -- whether it be television or film," Gabriel declares. "Initially, for me to break into the film world, I thought, 'What a better way to do it than to be a part of the biggest dance film franchise.' I jumped onboard the minute they offered it to me. No questions asked."
In the 3D Step Up Revolution,
the fourth installment of the sizzling dance and romance franchise, Gabriel portrays Eddy and costar Ryan Guzman plays Sean, two life-long buddies who work as waiters at Miami Beach's ultra-posh Dimont Hotel, owned by ruthless developer Bill Anderson (Peter Gallagher). In their off-duty hours, they lead a renegade crew known only as "The Mob," a group of cutting-edge dancers, musicians and artists that captures the collective imagination of the city with dazzling, hi-tech, hit-and-run flash mobs that appear out of nowhere -- and vanish in an instant. The Mob's outlaw performances attract the attention of Anderson's daughter Emily (Kathryn McCormick), a gifted dancer in her own right. Under pressure from her dad to leave her lifelong dream behind and get a real job, Emily has reluctantly agreed to go to work for him unless she earns a coveted spot in the prestigious Wynwood Dance Company. But after witnessing a flash mob, she is determined to join in.
The big question is: in what ways is Step Up Revolution
better than it's predecessors? "I would say that with each film, they have tried to improve and better and better, and I think that with this one they have definitely achieved that," Gabriel answers. "The dance scenes are unique and explosive. It's a different, unique plot in that it's not about dance battles -- which I think is even different from most dance movies we've seen. It also has a super-talented cast -- from the dancers to the leads in the movie. And, the director of the movie was a real pleasure to work with. It was just one of those dream jobs."
He especially liked the fact that he was encouraged by the film's director, Scott Speer, to improvise and to offer up choreography tips when they popped into his head -- and feet. "Luckily, I had worked with Scott previously on a commercial, so we knew each other," he explains. "I gained the director and producer's respect early on, and they knew how serious I was about the part and how committed I was. After one of the early table reads, they told me that I was doing exceptionally well. They told me to do what I was doing and take as many chances as I wanted, which gave me some freedom to try different things. As for my acting in the movie, it was a good thing that I worked with an acting coach before starting the movie. It made me feel as sense of accomplishment. It was fun to be able to have a good time and play."
Now that Misha Gabriel is on his way to becoming a film star, he has moth-balled his dance shoes for the time being. "Channing Tatum started out in the first Step Up
and now he is a respected film actor who is in high demand," Gabriel says. "My best friend, Kenny Wormald, who was the lead in Footloose,
has made the transition as well. At this point in my career, that's definitely where I see
myself. I am sort of taking a step back from the dance world, as far as financially making a living off of it. I am focusing more on choreography. I will perform if the right dancing project comes along -- like a Michael Jackson tribute -- or something that I feel, in my heart, that I want to do. But in the near future, you'll probably see me more behind the camera in sense of dance and the choreography world, and when it comes to acting you'll see me in front of the camera in another movie. At least, that's what I am hoping for."
Step Up Revolution in 3D + 2D is currently playing in theaters across North America.