J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Make Your Move: BoA Steps Up with COBU

Their motto is: “dance like drumming, drum like dancing.” Founded by Yako Miyamoto, the first Japanese cast-member of Stomp, the COBU dance troupe puts on an amazing live show combining Taiko drumming with tap and hip hop dancing. If they were not already extensively touring through South Korea, they probably soon will be. That is because reigning K-Pop diva of divas BoA plays a member of the COBU ensemble for her English language film debut. She learned her steps well. Viewers will come for the Taiko dancing and stay for the Taiko dancing when Duane Adler’s Make Your Move (trailer here) opens today nationwide.

Let’s admit right from the start the screenplay from Adler, the Step Up scribe is pretty clunky. Whenever you hear the sound of grinding metal it is really just the dialogue. However, for dance movies that is just par for the course. What counts are the moves, which are hot, particularly the Taiko sequences choreographed by Miyamoto. The more traditional Dirty Dancing-esque numbers choreographed by Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo also smoke thanks to the agile footwork of BoA and Dancing with the Stars’ Derek Hough.

BoA plays Aya, the Japanese-born Korean leader of COBU, whose visa will expire in a matter of days. She needs confirmed gigs and a sponsor to stay in the country. Unfortunately her only volunteer so far is Michael Griffiths, her brother Kaz’s creepy majority partner in OTO, a swanky new Brooklyn dance club. He would be happy to feature COBU, but he requires exclusivity. Aya would rather be deported than be beholden to a stalker like him.

Kaz used to be partners in the underground hipster club Static with Nick, but they split on bad terms. Their feud threatens to get deadly when each sends thugs to disrupt each others’ businesses. It is an inconvenient time for Donny leave New Orleans in violation of his parole, hoping to land a dancing gig in his foster brother Nick’s club. However, when Donny sees Aya launch into an unsanctioned impromptu performance in Static, all bets are off. Yes, it is West Side Story in BKLN, but when they are dancing, it all sort of works.

Although BoA is clearly still a bit uncomfortable with English, the camera absolutely loves her. Frankly, she handles her dramatic responsibilities rather well, thanks to a naturally warm screen presence. Hough is a different story, but at least he can dance. (Yet bafflingly, he sports a spit of peach-fizz so ridiculous looking, even the other characters bust on him for it.)

It is also nice to see Miyamoto get some screen time as Kaori, a COBU troupe member. She even gets to start the big climatic dance number with Hough, before BoA and the rest of COBU come in. It’s a show-stopper alright. Although he never shows any moves, Will Yun Lee also brings some professionalism to the proceedings as big brother Kaz.

To recap, the Taiko choreography and the partner dancing in MYM are rousingly entertaining. The plot and dialogue and what they are. Fans of BoA, COBU, Stomp, or the Step Up franchise will definitely dig it. Recommended for those looking for a dancing fix with a garnish of inconsequential romance, Make Your Move opens today (4/18) in New York at the AMC Empire.

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