On Sunday, July 16, Atlanta’s Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station 18 ever-so-graciously hosted the advance press screening of “Step,” a new documentary following the lives of three students (and steppers!) at Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, along with the team’s journey to winning the famed Bowie State Step Competition. Broadway producer Amanda Lipitz directed this film, a first for her. During the question-and-answer portion of the screening, she admitted that she really didn’t know much about stepping or its background and influences before production, but she knew that a film like this would really be something special. Lipitz also shared that she knew the three stars, Cori Grainger, Tayla Solomon, and Blessin Giraldo many years prior to the making of this film. Lipitz and her film crew had first visited the school when Blessin, the founder and former captain of the team, was just a new student at the school. “When y’all come back,” Amanda quoted Blessin as saying, “y’all are gonna film my team.” And clearly, that statement manifested itself into “Step.”
Lethal Ladies, the name of the team, was founded by Giraldo, a current graduate of the school. I had the opportunity of talking to her about the team shortly after the screening, asking what inspired her to start the team to begin with. She says that dancing has been a passion of hers since she was young, and as she got older, she felt that her school was lacking such an experience. The team was put together when Blessin was in the 8th grade, and since then has taken off.
The movie itself is well-executed and I commend the fact that it wasn’t used as an exploitation ploy (you know, the run-of-the-mill big talent agency looking for its next hit talent and using innocent teens for their own personal gain.) Everything shown was well thought out too, from the tough exercises to the final performance of the year. The movie really stuck to the everyday lives of these girls, showing their family life and step practices. Each girl’s story is unique and audiences will be able take something from each. From Cori, the high achiever, to Tayla, the everyday student, to Blessin, the girl who lived through a Drake lyric (“Started From the Bottom,” anyone?), they all make their mark throughout their final year of high school.
The cast member who resonates most with me is definitely Blessin, as we are alike in many ways. She’s very dedicated to her craft and is super talented, but has struggled in school, like myself. I was definitely beaming in the audience when she started bringing her grades up and applying herself to get work done, and it’s inspired me to work harder this upcoming school year. Even though her senior year was full of ups and downs academically, she worked hard to persevere and graduate, and do it all while effortlessly leading a team of stunning movers.
Prior to watching this movie, I had a bit of knowledge about stepping, as far as its history and popularity in schools nationwide go. However, I’m not gonna sit here and lie, saying that the time and effort put into step routines came as a surprise to me, since I’ve been in dance performances myself. I completely understand how much pressure can be put on you when preparing for a big show, especially in a group setting. But it is awe-inspiring to see how far these girls come from the first rehearsal of the fall semester to the last show and how every graduate at BLSYW excelled and kept the 100% graduation rate going since its opening in 2009. I highly recommend seeing this movie as a reminder of the importance of sisterhood, teamwork, and pure talent.
Amariyah, 16, attends DeKalb School of the Arts and is excited to share her first online review.
“Step” opens Friday, Aug. 4 in Atlanta at AMC Phipps Plaza, Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station and Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.