To the Beat

All kids have big dreams. I always wanted to be a famous writer (so halfway there, I guess), though there was also a brief time when I wanted to be a ballerina. That lasted through about three lessons, at which point I realized I had all the grace of a nearsighted, arthritic platypus and that particular dream was shelved. The girls in To the Beat, however, actually have dancing skills, and perhaps more importantly the drive to work for their dreams, which you certainly won’t find in all 14-year-olds.


All kids have big dreams. I always wanted to be a famous writer (so halfway there, I guess), though there was also a brief time when I wanted to be a ballerina. That lasted through about three lessons, at which point I realized I had all the grace of a nearsighted, arthritic platypus and that particular dream was shelved. The girls in To the Beat, however, actually have dancing skills, and perhaps more importantly the drive to work for their dreams, which you certainly won’t find in all 14-year-olds.

As the movie begins there’s a particular reason that twins Mia (Brisa Lalich)and Mackie (Laura Krystine) are working hard — singer Chris Trousdale has announced a contest looking for a team of five dancers to perform in his next video, and they’d both love to win. Since Mackie studies modern dance and Mia tap, however, they decide to each lead a team, bizarrely unconcerned about competing against each other, but whatever works for them.

The real problem is mean girl and neighbor Avery (Jayden Bartels), who also really wants to win and isn’t above using psychological warfare and out and out cheating to do so, even recruiting her boyfriend Alex (Jake Brennan) to help, against his better judgment. She thinks it’s totally unfair that her parents Clare (Martha Madison) and Michael (Eric Martsolf) are forcing her to let her little sister Emily (Avery Hewitt) be on her team, and no wonder since I’m pretty sure that was the first time in Avery’s entire life that she didn’t get her own way.

The twins’ mother Camila (Marie Wilson), meanwhile, seems glad that the girls are excited about something since in many ways they’re still recovering from the loss of their father two years ago. Older sister Mandy (Veronica St. Clair) gave up her own dreams and got a job straight out of high school to help the family, and while’s she often exasperated with her sisters she’s also proud of them. But competition is fierce, and there are a lot of panic attacks and other challenges ahead for the girls on the road to discovering who will come out on top.

Okay, so the ending isn’t exactly a surprise, but it is a fun ride to the auditions and Avery does come up with a couple of impressively nefarious schemes for a 14-year-old. Everything is kept age-appropriate so it’s an entirely family-friendly movie and it’s even mostly realistic (as far as I know, since I’m not really privy to what happens behind the scenes at most dance studios). Unfortunately realism also means hearing the same dance number about 73 times during the course of the film and it’s something of an earworm. It was stuck in my head for hours.

But even if the music isn’t your thing, there’s no denying that these girls have some real dance talent, and I found it interesting to see all the different routines set to the same piece of music. I also liked that Mia’s more old-fashioned style was never dismissed as being silly — I’m a longtime fan of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire movies so I must admit to liking tap dancing. All in all the film was a pleasant surprise. There were more than a few times when I felt hopelessly uncool (though that’s hardly new) but there was more than enough to the movie to keep adults entertained while the tweens and teens are oohing, aahing, and maybe dreaming of being dancers themselves.