Director: Amanda Lipitz
Starring: Paula Dofat, Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, and Tayla Solomon
“Step”, an inspiring story about a group of young women from Baltimore on a step-dancing team, is less about dancing and more about the determination to pursue the future. Taking the “fly-on-the-wall” approach to this documentary, director Amanda Lipitz simply watches as personalities mold and clash throughout the senior year for the inaugural class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.
The school was established in 2009 with a mission of sending every one of the students, most of them from low-income families, to an opportunity in college. The struggles of high school life, the drama, the homework, the obligation to the team, are further complicated by troubles at home, the family issues, the lack of money, the struggles of a city divided in the wake of the suspicious death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. “Step” teems with personality and a sense of joy, even when it makes all the turns that you’d expect a film like this to make. You’ll still want these young women to succeed in everything they do, in both their journey to become champions of their hobby and their future.
The Lethal Ladies of BLSYW, that’s their step-dance team name, are a fierce group of young women together but also individually. The film looks specifically at a few young women on the team.
Cori Grainger is the brain of the bunch, an impressive young mind who has high ambitions of getting into Johns Hopkins on a “full-ride” scholarship. Her family, always supportive but realistic of the costs associated with higher education, worry about how they are going to make it all work. Cori worries too.
Tayla Solomon has an authority about her; she’s confident and passionate, many times challenging her teammates with attitude. Makes sense considering her mother is a strong willed corrections officer determined to give a better life to her children.
The personality of the group is Blessin Giraldo, the team captain and motivator of the group. Blessin is complicated, her family life is complicated, and this makes her academic career complicated just before graduation.
For these young women dance is an escape from their hectic and stress filled lives, but just because it’s an escape doesn’t make them any less passionate about it. “Step” watches the progression of a team on their way to the final state event. Along the way we see them grow as a team, we see them on good days and bad days, we see them struggle and achieve. It’s truthful in its portrayal of team dynamics, being the best isn’t easy and you can feel that aspect during their practices.
“Step” does a great job of showcasing how a team can reveal character within an individual, how it builds character to achieve high expectations, and how it shapes character to deal with obstacles that will arise in the future. All of this comes together in the film’s highlight performance, a beautiful piece of resistance, confidence, and determination. It’s a joyous thing to witness.
4.00 out of 5.00