STEP takes us in the right direction
STEP is one of the best documentaries I have seen in a really long time. I don’t mean Irish Step Dance, I mean stepping “ a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations.”
Traditionally known to be performed by African American students at university level, many high schools (and middle schools) have developed step teams as well, as is the case with the students of Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. The film follows their journey preparing to compete at the highly competitive Bowie State step competition, with schools from Virginia, and Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
Step captures the peak racial tension with Freddie Gray’s death and the Baltimore protests/riots immediately following, reported on by people from all over the world, but rarely shown through the eyes of the locals. The girls explicitly share how his death as well as the protests/ riots have affected them. They incorporated Black Lives Matter in to one of their dances.
As if the media spotlight on their home town and racial tension wasn’t enough, the charter school the Lethal Ladies Step team attends, requires that they be accepted in to a college before graduating high school. The three young women profiled are the first high school graduating class of Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, so the pressure is on.
With genuine worries like the electricity bills, feeding their siblings, and the mental health of family members, their adolescent years may offer a sense of normalcy to some and a genuine shock to others. These girls have so much to deal with on top of getting good grades and attending university. The adults behind them (their counselors, principals, parents, and teachers) are nothing short of a miracle team, as they continuously tell these young women that they are worth it and give it all they’ve got to help them and then some.
One thing I did not anticipate with Step is all the laughter that came from the audience. One (extrovert) mother/ (annoyed) daughter duo kept the laughs coming. It was nice to have something so light hearted with all the stress you could feel coming from the screen. Most of the parents and all of the staff shown were so invested in the lives of these young women and it was inspiring awe inspiring. This support system shows that it may not always take a village, but it certainly helps. Stepping is important, it’s expressive, and it’s cultural. It deserves to be showcased in a respectful manner that exhibits the art of the movements, and luckily Step does just that.