Following a party, brother Mac (Damaine Radcliff) and Skinny Carter (De’Shawn Washington) and their best friend Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), break into the Maryland School of Arts and trash the school’s theatre, damaging many of the props. When a security guard appears, Tyler helps the two escape, accepting full blame for the vandalism himself. He is sentenced to 200 hours of community service, which is to be served at the school. While working, he peers in on a dance class and meets Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan Tatum), a student preparing for her “senior showcase”, an audition performance which could determine whether or not she is offered a job within any one of the professional dance companies to attend the performance. When Mac and Skinny pay Tyler a visit on the school’s lot, Nora curiously watches from a window as Tyler dances with his friends, mockingly incorporating a mashup of break-dance and the ballet moves he has recently observed. When Nora’s dance partner, Andrew (Tim Lacatena), sprains an ankle, Nora finds herself unexpectedly without a partner for her routine. Auditioning some sophomore students to replace him, she decides that none meet her expectations. Tyler offers to help, but Nora refuses. After demonstrating that he can handle the routine however, Nora reconsiders and convinces Director Gordon (Rachel Griffiths) to allow Tyler to rehearse with her. During their initial practice session, Tyler is antagonistic towards Nora as well as her boyfriend, Brett (Josh Henderson), both of whom respond with haughty attitudes. As they continue to rehearse, Nora and Tyler grow closer, each teaching the other about their respective styles of dance. Tyler also befriends a musician at the school named Miles (Mario), who has a crush on Nora’s friend, Lucy (Drew Sidora).
As Nora’s bond with Tyler grows, one day, she takes him to a special spot on the waterfront, near a company for which her late father used to work, revealing that this is where she first envisioned her routine. She confesses to Tyler that she had always imagined it as an ensemble dance, rather than a duet. Tyler becomes inspired to help her dream come true and begins recruiting younger dancers from the school to perform in her number. Brett signs a recording deal with a company, but in doing so, betrays his friend, Miles, to get the opportunity. Disgusted by his betrayal, Nora breaks up with Brett. Meanwhile, Tyler continues to attempt a balance between his new goals, his new friends, and nurturing a troubled relationship with his old ones.