FCLC Dancer Makes His Movie Debut

Shane Rutkowski, FCLC ‘09, performs a straddle jump. (Courtesy of Shane Rutkowski)

Shane Rutkowski, FCLC ‘09, performs a straddle jump. (Courtesy of Shane Rutkowski)


Published: Febrary 14, 2008

“I was on vacation with my family in Maine, and I was with my cousin shooting clay pigeons with a 12-gauge shotgun, so, needless to say, I didn’t hear my phone ring,” said Shane Rutkowski, FCLC ’09.

Shane Rutkowski, FCLC ‘09, performs a straddle jump. (Courtesy of Shane Rutkowski)

When Rutkowski listened to his voicemail, he learned that he had been hired to dance in “Step Up 2: The Streets,” and rehearsals started in Baltimore, Md., the next day.

“It’s not easy to get from Maine to Baltimore in 24 hours,” Rutkowski said. “But I took a bus to Boston and a train to New York. By this point it was 2 a.m., so I slept for a few hours [in McMahon Hall], packed some rehearsal clothes, then got on another train to Baltimore. One 45 minute cab ride to the studio, and I was at rehearsal.”

A few weeks prior, Rutkowski, a communications and media studies major and a dancer since the age of seven, received a call from friend and fellow dancer, Samantha Zweben. Zweben, who had a small part in “Step Up” and who also appears in “Step Up 2: The Streets,” told Rutkowski that male dancers were needed for a scene that takes place at the Maryland School of the Arts.

“When the choreographer called me and asked if I knew any male dancers that still looked young, Shane came to my mind immediately,” Zweben said. “I knew they would love him.”

Rutkowski called Jamal Sims, the choreographer of the movie, who had him send his headshot and resume to the director, Jon  Chu.  And on that connection, he was hired.

Rutkowski appears in three scenes in “Step Up 2: The Streets” and is credited as one of Blake’s class dancers; Blake, played by Will Kemp, is a classically trained dancer who is the director of the Maryland School of the Arts. Rutkowski can also be seen in the trailer.

“Whenever I see the trailer, I feel like a dork who says, “Right…there!’ and points [at the movie screen],” Rutkowski said.  “If that’s all [the time] my mug gets up there on screen, I’ll be happy.”

Rutkowski, a 5’7” powerhouse who’s known at his dance studio and on the competition circuit for his soaring jumps and flexibility, grew up dancing at Jazz Unlimited, a 2,000-student dance studio located in Marlton, NJ.

“I started dancing because my twin sisters danced,” Rutkowski said. “I also watched movies like ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘American in Paris’ and said, ‘I can do that.’  I wanted to tap dance so my parents put me in a tap and jazz class.”

Rutkowski began competing in regional and national dance competitions at the age of nine and spent summers training at Steps on Broadway, a world-renowned dance studio in Manhattan, and at The Rock School for Dance Education, located in Philadelphia.

“Dance is creative and physical, and it’s unlike other art forms like music or painting. It only exists for the moment when you’re doing it,” Rutkowski said. “At this point, dancing is a chemical addiction for me. Some people are addicted to exercise, but I’m addicted to dance. I get really unhappy if I don’t dance for a couple of days.”

On Feb. 15, the day after the movie is released, the ensemble members of Jazz Unlimited, the group of students who competes at dance competitions, will be renting out a local movie theater in Cherry Hill, NJ, to watch Rutkowski and Zweben in “Step Up 2: The Streets.”

“It’s great for your kids to see something that they can look forward to in the future,” said Monica Pauro, office manager of Jazz Unlimited. “A lot of our current students danced with Shane while he was at the studio, and now some of them are in the piece he is choreographing for the ensemble.”

Rutkowski is a member of Tap Kids, an international touring company comprised of the best tap dancers in America. He is also a dancer in the Steps on Broadway Repertory Company and a member of teacher-choreographer Jana Hick’s contemporary dance company, Next Stage Project.

“I am a tap dancer from a jazz studio who’s trained in ballet and who now works in a contemporary company,” Rutkowski said. “It sounds like I am confused, but to borrow a phrase from Jeff Shade [a teacher at Steps on Broadway], ‘You have to be a renaissance dancer.  It’s all the same, just a change of energy.’”

Rutkowski will graduate with a degree in communications and media studies with an emphasis in film and plans on continuing his dance career while working in the film industry.

“I would like to get in with a film production company in the city and work in creative development, specifically a literary department,” Rutkowski said.  “But if there’s anything dance has taught me, it’s to take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself and run with it. But I’ll always dance. Whether it’s just teaching little ones how to tap or performing with contemporary companies in the city.”

“Shane is a wonderful dancer, and wherever he wants to go with it after college, he will,” Zweben concluded.