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Albuquerque native lands starring role in ‘High Strung Free Dance’

Albuquerque native Juliet Doherty and Thomas Doherty in a scene from “High Strung Free Dance.” (Courtesy of Sicily Publicity)

Casting for a film is never easy.

Just ask Michael and Janeen Damian, who searched for the female lead in their film “High Strung Free Dance.”

“To find the lead was important, because the story revolves around her,” director Michael Damian says. “She has to be a world-class dancer and be available, because most major ballet companies wouldn’t allow this type of time off.”

The Damians did a worldwide search. After a few months, their London-based casting director received an audition tape from Juliet Doherty, an Albuquerque native.

Doherty was brought in for a screen test.

“Juliet comes from this whole generation of dancers in Albuquerque,” Michael Damian says. “She’s a result of the talent and the training she got in Albuquerque. We had to find out if her acting chops were at the same level of her dancing.”

And the rest is history.

“High Strung Free Dance” opens in theaters on Friday, Oct. 18. Locally, the film will play at AMC Albuquerque 12 theater.

The film tells the story of Zander Raines, played by Thomas Doherty (no relation to Juliet Doherty), a dazzling and tempestuous young choreographer who gives the break of a lifetime to two hopeful artists when he casts a stunning contemporary dancer, Barlow, played by Juliet Doherty, and an innovative pianist, Charlie, played by Harry Jarvis, in New York’s most-anticipated new Broadway show, “Free Dance.”

But the move throws off the show’s delicate creative balance when Charlie falls hard for Barlow while Raines embraces her as his muse.

Also cast in the film is Jane Seymour, who reprises her role as Oksana and serves as an executive producer.

The film is the second in a series of planned dance films from the Damians.

The couple have been working in film for some time.

“It’s our 15th movie together, and this is our favorite,” Janeen Damian says. “We are able to take dance and take it to a new level. These young artists are so driven, it’s amazing to see them with all of the passion.”

Juliet Doherty and the cast were choreographed by Emmy Award-winning choreographer Tyce Diorio, alongside 80 other dancers.

“Seeing everything come together is what we make films for,” Michael Damian says. “This film is for the family. It’s another chapter in our careers done, and we’re super-excited for it.”

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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