As the final credits began to roll on Amanda Lipitz’s Step, a woman sitting next to me turned and said “wow.” She stated that she felt like she had cried throughout the whole film. I must admit that the sound of her sniffles and her frequent dabbing of the eyes did not go unnoticed, but these were clearly tears of joy. Truth be told, it is hard not to get swept up in the emotions of a film as inspirational as this.
One goes in thinking the film will be a standard sports style documentary, with step dancing serving as the sport of the month. However, the film is much more than that though. Lipitz uses the world of dance as a gateway to a deeper conversation about education and the heights today’s youth, especially young African-American women, can achieve when provided with a committed support network.
Focusing on a group of high school seniors in a step program at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a charter school that Lipitz’s mother founded, Step is an empowering tale of sisterhood and perseverance. It is the type of film that reminds us that great things can be achieved when you put a bunch of strong and confident women together.
Over the course of the film we are introduced to a handful of the young women who all share the same passion for dance and anxiety for what their academic futures hold. There is the group’s charismatic founder and choreographer Blessin; Taylor who is frequently embarrassed by her mother’s comedic antics, and the determined Cori who dreams of going to John Hopkins University. As ambitious and driven as these young women are, they all have their struggles which include: the college application process and the cost associated, dealing with poverty and navigating romantic relationships.
While the film has a traditional sports structure, following the ladies as they prepare for a step competition they have never placed at before, the film is really a story of mothers and daughters. Lipitz effectively reminds us that women have been, and will continue to be, the foundation that will drive society forward. By going to college, many being the first in the family to do so, the young women in the group will be taking much needed steps towards lifting up themselves, their families and society as a whole.
Step is an uplifting crowd-pleaser that should be required viewing for those young and old.
This review was originally published as part of our Hot Docs 2017 coverage. The film opens in theatres today.