A free-style street dancer with no formal training, Tatum was chosen for the role because of his natural talent. Producer Erik Feig says that Tatum moves "like water" while Step Up producer Adam Shankman claims Tatum is "one of the best natural street dancers" he's ever seen.
A Rookie Among Trained Dancers: Channing Tatum found the experience of working around trained dancers to be a little nervewracking. You know, they are so many different levels of it. For example, I had to learn how to count music. I didn't know how to count music at all. And [choreographer] Jamal Sims kind of found a way in for me. He'd like to make sounds. He would make sounds like [demonstrating a human beat box] and I remembered what I would do for those things. And once you start getting it into your body and into your mind...
It's two things learning something: your body has to learn something and your mind has to learn something. You've got to connect the two sometimes and one of them always remembers it more than the other. Just getting them to work together is like the big key. Then aside from that, you learn it in like a closed environment, like in a dance studio by yourself, where it's just you and Jamal. Then they throw you out in front of people, and you're like [nervously], You all are going to be here while I'm doing this?" It's kind of like, Whoa. It's different than going and dancing in a club. Even in a circle in a club, I don't even like to do [that] because it's really strange. I don't know, it's strange. It is. It's weird. You go to stand in a circle and you watch people dance. I don't know, that's nervewracking to me.
It kind of makes me pinch myself every day that I did a dancing movie. I haven't even seen the whole thing, so I don't know if I will be able to watch it all the way [at the premiere]. I'll just be like sinking into my chair more and more and more, knowing that the final dance number's coming. But yeah, it was an amazing experience. I don't know if that answers your whole question or not. I go off on tangents - I apologize.
Channing Tatum on His Dance Partner, Jenna Dewan: I don't know how I would have done it without her, to be honest with you. I was nervous with the partnering, but I actually got the partnering better than some of the other stuff. You know, it's easy for a guy to be a partner, especially if he's working with someone that knows what they're doing like she does. I don't know how much partnering she had done, but I don't know how we would have done it without her.
We were auditioning other actors that didn't know how to dance and it just would have never worked. It would have never worked in a million years because they'd have had to get a dance double, and it just would have been fake and unbelievable. She walked in and gave an amazing read, but then after she danced, it was over. They just closed the door and there were like, All right, cool. So we got our Nora now.
It was a hard process to find Nora. Tyler's a little easier to find, because you can kind of find an actor that - I don't know, in my mind but maybe it wasn't for them, I don't really know - knows how to dance or freestyle a little bit. But as far as like an actor that has done professional, technical stuff that you have to learn from six and on up, that was a huge, huge thing. She had to do some of the most technical stuff in the movie. Tyler's stuff, he takes the technical thing, he kind of makes it his own so it was whatever I was comfortable doing. I could manipulate mine. Hers had to be dead-on.
Tatum continued, I learned so much from her. Dancers, apparently, I found out, make it work. I want to make a T-shirt: Make it work, because I was falling on my face every five minutes or just forgetting it. The day of she was just like, You just got to make it work. You just got to plunder through it, and whether it's good or bad, you just get it done. You want to make it as good as possible, that's why you work so hard. But I was nervous.