Parents' Guide to

Step

By Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Dance gives teen girls focus, power in moving documentary.

Movie PG 2017 83 minutes
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Heartfelt, moving, and full of so many rousing emotional moments that viewers may veer between welling up and wanting to cheer, this documentary packs a punch. Opening with footage from real Baltimore riots -- as if to show us what these girls are up against -- the film soon narrows its focus to the students at an ambitious public charter school, and then further zooms in on a handful of members of the school's step team: struggling Blessin, sardonic Tayla, brilliant Cori. Each has a vision of what her future could be. Cori hopes to get into Johns Hopkins, Tayla wants to get further in school than her mom did, and Blessin just wants a secure future in which there's food in the fridge and she has her own space. Normal, typical dreams of the average high schooler. But as we soon find out, each of these girls -- and indeed, every student at the school -- has her own struggles and limitations.

But in the step rehearsal room, all of these outside worries fall away. Here, they work together as a unit under stern but loving coach Gari. Gari, the first in her own family to go to college, alternately disciplines and praises the team, hoping to teach them something about discipline and integrity. School counselor Paula, too, gives her students both tough love and encouragement, helping them fill out applications, making phone calls, sometimes even begging for a chance. Before long, viewers will be hoping right along with these high schoolers. Will they get the grades they need? Will their dream colleges accept them? Will the girls somehow find the money to go to school, the dazzle to win step competitions, the toughness to keep going? In a style reminiscent of great documentaries like Hoop Dreams, Step will make you care. And maybe cry.

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