When a film is aptly titled Step, it is probably best to know the foundations of the movie’s key contents. So, first things first: what is Step dancing? In short, it is a style of dance in which footwork is the most important element. Along with clapping and vocals, the dance creates a beat, and is an African American tradition. So why is this important?
Step is a true-life documentary about a Step team, “The Lethal Ladies of BLSYW”. The focus is on these young women and their endeavour to pursue their passions and a college education, their message to the country made ever more prominent following the death of Freddie Gray and the media’s misrepresentation of the Baltimore Riots. Following their school lives at Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, the documentary looks into the lives of three of the team’s participants in particular: captain and founder Blessin Giraldo, a step prodigy struggling both at school and at home; Cori Grainger, an honour roll student hoping for a scholarship; and straight talker Tayla Solomon. In a stressful senior year, the girls and their families must come to terms with reality with regards to their college prospects and juggle their education with their dance training.
When making a non-fiction feature with a focus on real people, emotionally involving content is vital for engaging the viewer, and Step director Amanda Lipitz has masterfully harnessed and sculptured a film that encapsulates the physical and emotional struggles of young African American women, and the targets they can achieve if given the opportunity. Furthermore, Lipitz has chosen three central girls with personality, comedic timing and a passion for what they believe in. These are people who can be supported and willed forward by the audience, and that is a key element for the film’s success.
The combination of these powerful personalities and the harsh reality of Baltimore’s suburbs creates an even greater urge for these girls to succeed when chasing their dreams, and when contrasted against the image of their parents, who never received the same opportunities in life, there is an overwhelming sense that times are changing for African American youths for the better. There is a small feeling that those attending BLSYW actually aren’t in the worst of all predicaments, with the poverty line not crossed and with college being a genuine possible reality; but this doesn’t subtract from the work because Lipitz makes us feel a genuine connection with all of her subjects.
Through shots of fierce choreography, and a soundtrack that will get viewers moving in their seats, Step is certainly a documentary that will no doubt raise awareness of American society’s most marginalised demographic, and bring their dependence on Step dancing for liberation to everyone’s attention. After all, for these girls, “Step is life”.
Step is released nationwide on 11th August 2017.
Watch the trailer for Step here: