Opening 17 May 2007
DJ (Columbus Short) and his brother Duron are break dancers in Los Angeles. Duron dies in a gang confrontation. DJ, desperately needing a second chance, travels to Atlanta, Georgia. His aunt Jackie greets him with, “You’ll get used to the humidity.” His uncle Darrin helps him enrol in all-black Truth University, where humidity is the least of his problems. He antagonizes members of Mu Gamma Xi and Theta Nu Theta, two black fraternities and falls in love with an off-limits girl named April (Meagan Good). The fraternity members follow conservative Christian life-styles (saying the Lord’s Prayer before competition) and adhere to a military sense of team work. Their manliness and keen competitive spirit is put to the test at the 17th annual step show championship. DJ’s talent in break dancing – or “street” which is not the same as “step”—could be helpful in the contest and he pledges to join Theta.
The film is predictable, which, in a way, is reassuring, because you can forget the story line and concentrate on the performers. Step seems to be a kind of ancient, African, coming-of-age dance, done in rigid formation, more of a tap dance than break. The dancers have menacing facial expressions as they “stomp the yard” like so many male peacocks vying for supremacy. Directed by Sylvan White, the overall message gives black people – or any group – pride of accomplishment. It propagates the value of sticking to one’s values, loyalty to the brotherhood, and respect for role models, in this case Coretta King, Rosa Parks, etc. The movie’s last line is “Intelligence and character are the true goals of education.” The lead actors are extremely good looking. Stomping the Yard reminded me of Drum Line and is interesting for its introduction of this type of “dance.” (Becky Tan)