November 30, 2017 – This documentary film is about women on a dance team of the founding class of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, but it is a movie about a lot more than dancing. It is also about girl power, families who are struggling, parents who are hurting, but who still have hope for their children's futures, and the very dedicated people at the school determined to do everything they can to help these students succeed.
Philanthropist Brenda Brown Rever founded the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women in 2009. At first it was a school for sixth graders only (who gain admittance through lottery). It was later expanded into middle school and high school. This movie is about three students in the first high school graduating class produced by this school (2016). They are, Cori Grainger (class valedictorian) Blessin Giraldo and Tayla Solomon. Every member of the graduating class made it into college, a remarkable achievement for any school.
Although the movie's basic structure, following the members of the Step team, who call themselves the “Lethal Ladies” through to a big competition, is common, most of the movie is about the students, their parents and some of their teachers and counselors. For me, the most emotional moment in the movie is when the school's college counselor, Paula Dofat breaks down into tears, pleading with college representatives to accept one of her more troubled students into a college program.
Dofat is a truly inspirational educator who cares deeply about her students. She can also be tough when she needs to be. The same is true of Step coach Gari McIntyre who is the very definition of tough love. The students, and their parents, are a diverse group. Blessin Giraldo struggles with inner rage, as does her mother, Geneva, who admits to struggling with depression. Geneva says she once nearly killed her ex husband in fight. Geneva is proud that her daughter, who also struggles with anger, because she is better able to control it. Blessin is also the most fiercely competitive and creative dancer on the step team, her coach, Gari, says of her, “She stands out. When you see her step, she's the one who your eyes immediately go to, because her heart is in it.”
Cori Grainger seems to be more of a model student, who works very hard on her studies. Although her family is struggling financially, they have high hopes for her because of her academic talents and work ethic.
Tayla's mother, a corrections officer, is very strict. We see her marching into Step practice, where she says to Gari, “Her report card looks like shit.” She is talking about a grade of 67 on Tayla's report card. She says, “I don't play 60s, I don't play 70s and I don't play 80s, because that is not the child she is.” Tayla gets a very stern talking to by everybody for letting her grades slip, perhaps because of the negative influence of a boyfriend. There are people who say that black parents are not engaged enough in their schools. I think they'd probably think twice about that if they saw this movie.
Some of the families shown in this movie are truly struggling. Sometimes the children literally don't know where their next meal is coming from. The families know, however, that their daughters are lucky to be attending an exceptional school, and that if they work hard, they have a chance at a better future. They have hope.
The soaring achievements of these young women, despite their personal struggles, is very inspirational. This film gives us insight into the lives of some remarkable, heroic people. It is an exceptional achievement by the director, Amanda Lipitz. The inspirational song, “Jump,” played at the end of the film, written by Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson and Laura Karpman, performed by Cynthia Erivo, is one of the best songs in movies this year.
On the one hand, this is a joyful film about families overcoming hardships and young women going off to college against the odds, despite poverty, discrimination and broken homes. On the other hand it is tragic to know that most children don't get educational opportunities of this caliber. This film indirectly highlights the immense wasted potential of human resources in this nation. America's obesity epidemic is also evident in this movie. This film rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.