- Katherine McLaughlin
- 7 August 2017
Uplifting documentary charting the fortunes of a high school dance team
2016 saw the first batch of girls from the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women graduate in their dazzling white capes and mortarboards. That image alone is a heartening snapshot of sisterhood, success and strength. The school was set up by philanthropist Brenda Brown Rever in 2009 with the mission to provide girls from working class backgrounds with an education that would eventually land them in college. The graduating class is predominantly made up of young black women and director Amanda Lipitz (the daughter of Brown Rever) closely follows three students – Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger and Tayla Solomon – through their step dance training and the emotional process of applying for college.
In the first step class we meet the girls and their new coach, who introduces herself by telling them she lived on the same street as Freddie Gray. These girls live around the corner from the violence that erupted after his suspicious death in police custody but, as one student astutely observes, the news tends to only show the rioting and not the brighter side of the community coming together.
Lipitz celebrates the enriching cross-generational relationships and the mother- daughter bonds, delivering an uplifting and beautiful documentary about the power of female solidarity. There are a few falling outs within the troupe and the constant worry about money and finances in their personal lives, yet when it comes to crunch-time the girls collectively step up. The energetic dance scenes are passionate and it's wonderful watching the determination on these young women's faces as they perfect a routine inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The documentary plays out in the same spirited manner as a fictional dance film, featuring inspirational teachers and the girls vying for top spot at the Bowie State step competition, but there are real futures at stake and Lipitz never lets us forget that.
Limited release from Fri 11 Aug.