The Next Step

The Next Step (1997)
Vanguard Films
Cast: Rick Negron, Kristin Moreu

The best way to describe ’The Next Step’ is ’A Chorus Line’/’Staying Alive’ meets ’Red Shoe Diaries’ (the box describes the film as ’Erotic Drama). Rick Negron (is he Taylor’s brother?) stars as Nick Mendez, a dancer who is pursuing his dream of becoming a Broadway star. This dream stalls when his latest show (’Speakeasy – The Musical’ (!)) closes, and Nick is out of a job. He lives with longtime girlfriend Amy (Kristin Moreu), a former dancer who is now a physical therapist, but Nick still occasionally has sex with fellow dancer Heidi (Denise Faye). Nick goes on auditions, but he is constantly being told that he’s too old to dance. (It’s kind of annoying that Nick’s age is never disclosed). Undaunted, Nick goes out for a part in ’Gangland’. To make ends meet, Nick takes on another job where he hits on hostess and dancer Michelle (Michelle Pertier).

By this point, my ’next step’ was about to be to the eject button, as the film was very hammy and predictable for the first hour, but once Nick’s luck runs out, ’The Next Step’ becomes very interesting. Nick goes to extremes to save his career and his relationship, and the story takes some unexpected turns. Interwoven with this drama is a nearly non-stop exhibition of dancing, which draws the viewer’s attention away from the wooden acting of most of the cast. I was ready to write off ’The Next Step’ as being one step away from ’Movie of the Week’ quality (but with more sex), but the film did end up redeeming itself. I must say that for all of the moral shortcomings of the film, the characters are intriguing, and if you’re a fan of dance movies, then you may like ’The Next Step’.

’The Next Step’ comes to DVD by way of those avant-garde connoisseurs at Vanguard Films. The movie is presented in a widescreen format, and is letterboxed at 1.85:1, but it is not enhanced for 16×9 TVs. The image is clear and sharp, but it is noticeably dark at times. This transfer does reveal some minor defects from the source print, but it is free of noise or any artifacting problems. The framing appears to be accurate, as there is obvious loss of visual information at the top or bottom of the screen. The audio on the DVD is a complete nightmare, however.

The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is woefully unbalanced, with the dialogue being very soft and the music being very loud. So, whenever a dance number begins, you’ll find yourself reaching for the remote control, lest the cat get scared and flee from the room. And we can’t have that, now can we? There are no extras on the DVD. It would have been nice to see some sort of featurette or cast interviews, to find out if any of the actors have gone through the same struggles which Nick faces in the film.