‘STEP’: The Dance Documentary That Will Make You Believe In Yourself
Updated: May 28, 2020
STEP took the Sundance Film Festival by storm in January and now it’s hitting theatres just as the summer dance explosion is peaking. The documentary will be released on Friday, Aug. 4 while So You Think You Can Dance premieres for with the Season 14 live shows and World of Dance wraps its first season all within a five-day period.
STEP follows the lives of three young women who are on the step team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women. Their senior year is chronicled with all of the triumphs and tribulations of trying to get into college and win a step championship.
Dance Dish had the opportunity to sit down with director Amanda Lipitz and cast members Blessin Giraldo and coach Gari McIntyre aka “Coach G” to talk about the impact their film has had on audiences and their own lives.
Lipitz originally began filming the girls when they were in 6th grade to help them raise money for the school. Those short videos turned into a feature film as a part of the first graduating class at the high school.
“The point at which we started making the documentary is a blurred line in a way when I look back now,” says Lipitz. “It started the day I put a camera on Blessin and I saw that girl with her dimples and she linked arms with me and said, ‘I’m going to be on Broadway.’”
Even with all of Blessin’s talents and charm, she had a few hiccups along the way when it came to her home life and studies at school.
“Certainly Blessin kept me up at night, no question. But I knew [college counselor] Paula Dofat was never in a million years going to let any of them not graduate or go to college. She was going to make it happen, come hell or high water.”
Blessin is refreshingly accountable for her missteps in her junior and senior years.
“I ran out [of excuses]. I ran out,” she laughs. “There was no more running because once you get to your junior year and then your senior year, that’s when you know it’s time to pull the papers and collect the numbers. But Miss Dofat and everyone else believed in me and I always believed in myself.”
Adding to the challenges of senior year was the arrival of Coach G to take the reigns of the step team. Coach G walked a similar path as these young women and took the long road to college graduation, but the important part is that she received that diploma.
“It was my first time coaching and the fact that they were already trained, talented steppers. I didn’t have to shape them,” explains Coach G. “I had to dig deep for choreography, but it was never about clapping, stomping, stepping — it was about the mentorship. That was my biggest goal.”
The transition was easier for the team and Coach G than expected. After the team ran through a series of coaches over the years, she was a breath of fresh air.
“She wanted to know who we are and our history. Coach G didn’t want to come in and change everything. That said something to me because step is my baby,” says Blessin. “She also came in with a book where she wrote down her ideas, our formations and the choreography. That’s when I knew Coach G was our ticket to history and victory
What resonates the most in STEP is the leadership and empowerment of women of all ages lifting each other up. In an age of social media where the worst of society can sometimes be seen, the documentary provides a welcome relief in seeing the best in women who provide wisdom and strength to the next generation.
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