‘We make music with our bodies,’ says Blessin, an African-American teenager from inner city Baltimore who’s one of the stars of her school’s step dance team. Amanda Lipitz’s documentary follows three seniors at the Baltimore Leadership School For Young Women, a new institution which admits local girls using a lottery – a fact that plays on your mind every time you see the opportunities these teens are receiving. The film is about much more than the pupils’ infectious, rhythmic dancing: it’s about education, escape and equality. Principal Ms Hall is determined that each one of her graduates will get into college, as is counsellor Paula Dofat, whose compassion is compelling enough to bring a tear to the eye.
Thanks to witty, warm characters, ‘Step’ is as entertaining as it is worthwhile. Blessin keeps her humour as sharp as her nails and her ever-changing hairstyles, while clever Cori has a way with words. Meanwhile Tayla’s correctional officer mother is hilariously passionate about the upcoming contest (‘Donnie Darko’ fans may see parallels with Sparkle Motion). The camera access to the performance scenes isn’t always perfect, but that’s a small gripe in a film that has so much to say, and has so much fun doing so.