Imagine what it would’ve been like to be a professional dancer, to have danced all your life waiting for an opportunity to reach the pinnacle of the vocation. Imagine reaching that goal, and then imagine having it taken away.
Such was the case for Misha Gabriel, who has been dancing since age 2 and now co-stars in the newest installment of the stalwart Step Up series alongside Twitch, Moose, and a bunch of new steppers.
If you can pick one gig that would’ve represented the pinnacle for aspiring young dancers, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than working alongside Michael Jackson.
Gabriel, who plays best bud to the newest film’s Channing Tatum figure (here played by former model Ryan Guzman), says it’s still very emotional for him to talk about his oh-so-close opportunity to take the stage with MJ during his “This Is It” tour. Gabriel said they were within a week of setting sail to go on tour in Europe when Jackson overdosed on propofol and benzodiazepine.
As difficult as it was to deal with, Gabriel still looks on the bright side of the experience, which was documented in the film This Is It as a wealth of rehearsal footage made all too clear the adulation Gabriel and his fellow dancers had for MJ.
“We got to see a private Michael Jackson concert every day for three months,” he said. “What you see in the movie is just a taste of how hands-on he was throughout the project.”
Even though the stint ended in heartbreak for Gabriel, he carries a reminder of it in the form of a tattoo around his left wrist that reads “Long Live The King” in Italian.
It’s not the only ink Gabriel has on his person, and he said he would love to get more, but he admitted that as his star rises, he knows he should probably pull in the reigns. Already, a tattoo of angel wings on his right forearm forced him to wear an armband throughout all his scenes in Revolution.
“It’s because of The Hangover, that Mike Tyson tattoo,” said Gabriel.
The litigation surrounding Ed Helms’ copy-tat has led producers to be more mindful of the body art that ends up on the screen. Unless actors can secure waivers from the artists who created their tattoos, Gabriel says it’s too big a lawsuit risk. And there is, of course, the need to consider how they could potentially limit his choice of roles in the future.
Not that any body modifications would’ve been out of place for the role of Eddie, one of the co-founders of Revolution‘s Miami Beach motley band of breaker-pranksters, The Mob. Along with Sean (Guzman), Eddie helps plan out a series of dance stunts around town intended to keep The Street alive on The Strip. They upload their hydraulic-pumping, graffiti-spraying, electric-boogalooing performance art onto YouTube in hopes that they can win a six-figure viral video contest and catapult their brand identity into the mainstream.
Gabriel said he was happy to hitch up to the popular Step Up franchise, and has been a fan from step one.
“Anything that puts dance in the forefront, I’m a fan,” he said.
In something of a departure from the previous Step Up films, which focused mainly on dance battles between competing crews, Revolution sets up posh hotel developments and all they stand for as the main antagonist for our scrappy heroes. Despite mixed signals between The Mob’s desire to keep it real and their insatiable quest for fame — not to mention their (spoiler alert) ultimate sell-out to a Nike image campaign at the film’s end — Revolution‘s production numbers become increasingly Occupy-oriented. It’s a shift that Gabriel said he relished.
“I think that’s one of my favorite things about this film, that we stepped away from the dance battles,” he said. “it was like we were dancing for a higher purpose, and sticking it to The Man.”
Gabriel, who currently rooms with former So You Think You Can Dance contestant and celebrity choreographer Travis Wall, has plenty on his (ahem) dance card at the moment, having danced with and/or choreographed routines for Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Ne-Yo. (He also counted a routine he created for Dancing with the Stars among his favorite professional moments.) But is also looking forward to the chance Revolution has given him to test out his acting skills. He said he would love to play Baryshnikov if given the chance.
A tatted Baryshnikov? The world’s ready.