Dance movies can be hit or miss, as I generally only see them for the dancing unless it is a documentary. Fox Searchlight Pictures highlighted “Black Girl Magic” to significant effect with their 2017 release, Step. With Step, I expected a documentary along the lines of Rize or Planet B-Boy. Instead, I viewed an inspirational documentary in the vein of Waiting for Superman.
In the summer of 2017, there were not enough heartwarming movies. Step is the type of crowd-pleasing entertainment that had the potential to be a sleeper crossover hit. First-time director Amanda Lipitz travels with young women Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, and Tayla Solomon as they enter their senior year at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. With Blessin as their captain, the trio of girls is a part of a step team for the school known as the “Lethal Ladies of BLYSW,” whose goal is to win the Bowie State step competition. Lipitz could have easily focused solely on the stepping aspect of the story. Instead, she chooses to concentrate on the girl’s journey into womanhood and higher education.
Watching the film, I was able to identify with all of the girls. Blessin is a naturally talented and beautiful young woman who could quickly become a victim of her environment; Cori is the hard-working girl with street smarts and book smarts who refuses to give up her dreams, while Tayla possesses a natural charm that may come off as arrogant. Along the way, their new coach Gari “Coach G” McIntyre, and guidance counselor, Paula Dofat, mentors the girls. The motivation given to the trio by their coach and guidance counselor still gives me chills.
Despite the girls coming from a rougher neighborhood, Lipitz and her cinematographer Casey Regan make the wise choice to highlight Baltimore in a positive light. The girls have supportive families who encourage them to the fullest, while one particularly intense scene highlights a mural dedicated to Freddie Gray.
With a quick run time of 83 minutes, Step pulled me in and never let go. As I watched these girls come into their own as vital, confident black women, I could not help but be inspired. When the credits rolled, the tears and the audience’s applause were sincere. I highly encourage you to seek out Step if you have never seen the film.
Final Grade : A
Step is available to stream on most streaming platforms