Based on the Step Up film franchise that grossed $650 million at the global box office, YouTube’s drama, Step Up: High Water focuses on several ambitious young dancers in a contemporary performing arts school in Atlanta.

Dance dramas are a cyclical thing, series EP/director Adam Shankman insisted at TCA on Saturday, noting there have been “long periods” when there were no “dance-driven things being made for screen.”

Each time one then pops up it becomes a thing, he said. When the first Step Up movie came along and was a hit “no one was more surprised than me,” he confessed.

REX/Shutterstock

Shankman credits competition reality series Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, and “in no small way, Glee” with changing ideas about performance and music in scripted television.

Shankman added, “When we make the rounds at all different networks and studios to discuss what they’re looking for there has never been a season where someone did not say, ‘We’d love a dance show’.”

Series creator/EP/showrunner Holly Sorensen jumped in to suggest sports movies and dance movies “tend to work and live on the big screen” and, typically, they structurally build up to The Big Moment.

“The Game,” Shankman chimed in.

But Step Up, Sorensen insisted, is not a dance show. It’s a show about dancers.

The stakes are high because it’s set in a low-income neighborhood where people have the opportunity to study at the school. “It’s a matter of life and death,” she said.

The show is also about danger, she insisted, because students can suffer career-killing injuries, and the person who runs the school “is a dangerous person.”

“This is not Fame,” she insisted.

Ne-Yo plays a sort of Oz-like character in the series, she said, describing his character as “kind of an ass” and enigmatic. He joins series regulars Naya Rivera (Glee), and Faizon Love (Couples Retreat, Elf).

Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Meredith Milton, all producers of the original Step Up films, executive produce, along with Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan Tatum, who co-starred in the original Step Up film.

Produced by Lionsgate, the series debuts on YouTube Red, on Jan. 31.