It’s been a minute since we’ve had a solid dance romance; films like Save the Last Dance, Step Up, and even early-aughts gem Shall We Dance all have shown the power dance has to bring together unlikely duos. German film Into the Beat, now streaming on Netflix, takes a familiar premise – ballerina falls in love with a hip hop dancer and questions her future – and breathes life into it with a fresh young cast.
The Gist: Katya (Alexandra Pfeifer) is a promising ballet dancer who dreams of being selected for the New York Ballet Academy. When her father, also a famous ballet dancer, is terribly injured during a show, she feels even more pressure to make this dream come true – it’s what her father has always wanted for her. One night, after she damages her bike on her way home, she’s introduced to a community of hip hop dancers and a world she didn’t know existed. It doesn’t take long for her to fall in love with this style of dancing – and with one of the boys, Marlon (Yalany Marschner), who helps show her the ropes and soon becomes her dance partner of sorts.
As Katya becomes more and more obsessed with hip hop, her ballet performance begins to weaken. With her audition drawing ever closer, her instructor grows increasingly worried about Katya’s chances if she continues to show up to class tired and unfocused. When she discovers a hugely successful hip hop crew is coming to town and holding auditions, her future becomes even more unclear. Katya tries as hard as she can to juggle both halves of her life, but it soon becomes clear that she’ll have to make a choice, and no matter what she chooses, she’ll lose something – or someone – in the process.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Into the Beat feels like a Gen Z take on Save the Last Dance and Step Up.
Performance Worth Watching: The central duo really are the heart of the film, and watching them is electrifying; as Katya and Marlon, Alexandra Pfeifer and Yalany Marschner have totally sparky chemistry, both on the dance floor and off. Both performers have the ability to say so much with only their eyes, and the physicality they share is really what makes the film as mesmerizing as it is – despite its familiar premise.
Memorable Dialogue: Gotta love the wisdom of Katya’s little brother Pauly when she says she’ll have to leave ballet behind if she does hip hop: “Just do both. It’s dumb to always do the same thing. Even kindergarteners know that.”
Sex and Skin: Into the Beat keeps things pretty PG, so none of that here.
Our Take: I’ll admit it, I started Into the Beat fully expecting to yawn through a tired premise. We’ve seen the young (typically white) ballerina get stars in her eyes while witnessing hip hop for the first time more than once, and reading the synopsis for Into the Beat made me think we’d be getting more of the same. Despite its familiar story, however, I was utterly charmed by Into the Beat; it’s a film that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, mostly because it doesn’t really need to. Girl and boy from different worlds come together and fall for each other, creating something beautiful and maybe resolving some deep-seated trauma in the process? What’s to reinvent? With the right cast and some exciting dance sequences, you don’t need much else.
Into the Beat mostly works because of its charismatic young cast, but the relationship between Katya and her father Victor (Trystan Pütter) is also a big part of what makes Into the Beat so effective. We’ve seen the high-pressure, uptight parents before, but the fact that Victor hopes to share his legacy with his daughter – and is himself humbled by a career-ending injury – adds some real dramatic weight to the whole thing. Victor isn’t just some rigid, ballet-only asshole; he’s a loving father experiencing his own emotional journey, and his connection with Katya is real. It’s not only based on her potential as a ballerina. Marlon and Katya’s burgeoning love story may play a big part of Into the Beat, but Katya and her father’s journey – and how they both learn to let go – moved me even more.
In addition to the strong cast, there’s a real energy to the direction here, too. Director Stefan Westerwelle obviously feels passionately about this story, because the film itself is imbued with an electricity that makes each scene – even the quieter ones – totally compelling. It doesn’t matter if we’ve seen this before; it still feels fresh, and that’s thanks to a wonderful balance of performance, direction, and some standout dance scenes (those dances have got to work when it comes to this kind of movie!). We may know how all of this ends, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s the path and the players that make Into the Beat so much fun to watch.
Our Call: STREAM IT. It might not be totally original, but with a charming young cast and some truly electrifying dance sequences, Into the Beat is more than worth your while.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic at karaoke, and thirst-tweeting. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.