High Strung Free Dance

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
High Strung Free Dance Movie Poster Image
Sensational music/dance numbers rise above so-so romance.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Big career dreams may come true if they're combined with hard work and perseverance. Socio-emotional lesson about the importance of honesty. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A diverse group of young women demonstrate support, teamwork, and friendship, even when they're competing against each other.


A cyclist is accidentally knocked off his bike by an opening car door; his head bleeds, but he's OK. A temperamental character berates and humiliates employees.


Romance and kissing within a love triangle, but the relationships don't overlap. A young woman dates her boss. Dancers' outfits are skimpy, and some of their moves can feel a little on the sexy side. 


One use of profanity by an unlikable character: "bulls--t." "Sucks" and "screw that" also used.  


Takes place in New York City; shots of Times Square inevitably have some logos, but only the Broadway shows are noticeable. A Pepsi logo is seen in the distant background at a café.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

None of the characters are seen with any substances, but background actors hold martinis at a modern-day speakeasy and drink wine at a restaurant.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that High Strung Free Dance -- the follow-up to 2016's High Strung -- is a drama about young artists trying to make it on Broadway. It's from married filmmakers Michael and Janeen Damian, both of whom come from the worlds of music, dance, and the Great White Way. Their experiences clearly inform the story, given the situations the young performers run into, including a temperamental, womanizing choreographer. Main character Barlow (Juliet Doherty) does become romantically involved with her boss (Disney Channel regular Thomas Doherty), with minimal consequences. This is a mixed message in a film that otherwise aims to show young viewers that achieving an "impossible" dream is possible through perseverance. Teamwork is also on display, and the supporting cast is diverse. Alcoholic beverages are shown in the background, characters kiss, and there's a single use of "bulls--t" (plus "sucks" and "screw that"). A character is accidentally knocked off his bike (some bleeding). Expect electrifying dance and music sequences that cross genres.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLinzeb October 8, 2019

True Art!

The creativity in this movie is incredible with non stop amazingly wonderful original music and dancing. I would love to see more movies With such entertaining... Continue reading
Adult Written byTinkerbellwilson June 27, 2020

Best contemporary dance movie ever!

This was the most invigorating contemporary modern ballet dance I have watch in my 41 years of life! The end was incredible and literally gave me serious gooseb... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byheyyy08 January 18, 2021


I think this is an amazing to watch. Especially if you are interested in dance. There is a bond with the dance teacher and there are a few kissing scences. I do... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byyallachabibi June 3, 2020

100% recommend- One of the better movies.

This movie was amazing-truly genius. It starts off like any other movie and you assume it is progressing like any other drama. The way the movie was written was... Continue reading

What's the story?

In HIGH STRUNG FREE DANCE, famed choreographer Zander Raines (Thomas Doherty) gives contemporary dancer Barlow (Juliet Doherty) and gifted pianist Charlie (Harry Jarvis) their big break by casting them in his Broadway show. Tensions mount when Barlow dances into the hearts of both her colleague and her boss. 

Is it any good?

What this film lacks in story and acting talent it makes up for in eye-popping, ear-pleasing dance and music sequences that will captivate even the most disinterested viewer. The story has overtones of 42nd Street without the clever quips and snappy comebacks (although choreographer Tyce Diorio's exciting originality is worthy of the Busby Berkley comparison). The acting is underwhelming and the writing is barely serviceable, but who cares? High Strung Free Dance is all about the performance sequences.

Director Michael Damian mixes modern and classic dance and music in a way that's entertaining and impressive. Even for kids who aren't into the arts, there's something to pull them in: an amazing rap sequence (from YouTuber Ali Tomineek), a highbrow Broadway dance sequence in which dancers are lifted and blown across the stage, and a visually spectacular Bollywood number. Damian sought out recognized, awarded performers from all over the world to create a troupe worthy of perfectionist impresario Raines. The result is a series of exciting performances that exceed any expectation you might have for an indie dance movie. At the very least, it dazzles; at the most, it inspires -- home viewers might just get off the couch and join in. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how High Strung Free Dance depicts a creative leader who berates and humiliates those he's leading. Do you think this behavior is common in the entertainment world? What do you think about the defense given by the assistant choreographer -- and Barlow's response?

  • What are the challenges of  pursuing a career in the arts? What are the rewards? What character traits do you think are required to make it? How can you tell the difference between a hobby and a calling?

  • Can movies and TV shows introduce people to ways of life they might not otherwise have a chance to experience? Has that ever happened to you?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music and dance

Character Strengths

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