Australian actress, model and dancer Sharni Vinson has only been living in the U.S. for two years, but she already landed her first lead role in a major Hollywood movie.

Vinson, 27, who moved from Sydney to L.A. in 2008 to pursue her career in the entertainment industry, stars in “Step Up 3D,” the third installment of the popular street dance film franchise that started in 2006.

In “Step Up 3D,” Vinson plays Natalie, the newest addition to a New York City street dance crew who hopes to win the prize money in a dance competition so their studio won’t be shut down.

During an interview with me, Vinson talked about the long tradition of dancing in her family and the challenges she faced learning new dancing styles.

What is your earliest memory of dancing?

I’ve been dancing my whole life. I’m a third-generation performer. My grandmother was a ballerina. My mother was in musical theater. I remember watching my mother perform when I was young and thinking, “That’s what I want to do.”

You must’ve seen a lot of yourself in your character.

Yeah, it hit close to home. She is a dancer and her life revolves around it. I stopped dancing for a while a couple of years ago and I was lost during that time. There is a passion that dance brings out of you. That is what Natalie is all about. I connected to her through that.

You moved to L.A. from Australia only two years ago. What did your family think when you told them of your decision?

They were supportive. They knew it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It wasn’t a shock. It was planned out. My mom flies out as much as she can to visit me. They are happy that I’m living the dream.

“Step Up 3D” is, of course, the third installment of this franchise. What is it about the dancing techniques that make it stand out from the rest?

These moves are ones you’ve never seen before. We brought in the best dancers that exist at the particular styles they excel in. [Director] Jon [Chu] has captured everything in this film. There are so many new styles that aren’t in the other two. Everyone will be able to relate to a lot of the different dances.

With your background in dance, how challenging was this style of dance compared to your experience?

It was challenging for me because I grew up a ballerina. Many of these styles are more hip-hop. With each choreographer comes a different style. The most challenging things are the most rewarding when you get them right. It’s been a pleasure to watch it all unfold and see the finished product.

Do you have to be open to different dance styles if you want to be a professional dancer?

Yeah, you have to expand with the amount of different styles that come in. Some of these dances come about because one day someone decided to express themselves to music in their individual way. Shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” are introducing all these different styles of dance and taking these dancers who may only know one specific style and making them broaden themselves and learn more. It makes you a better dancer. It’s important to embrace it all. But at the same time, everyone is special because of their uniqueness. You should never lose that. It’s cool to learn all these styles that you’ve never heard of before. Expression through music is the best part.

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