• by Wes Singleton

Step, A-

Rated PG, 83 minutes

The winning new documentary "Step" is one of the best films of the summer and year, and will surely step into and capture your heart. Emotionally satisfying and uplifting, it tells the story of an all-female step dance team and the insurmountable challenges they encounter.

The film tells the story a Baltimore girls’ high-school step team and the challenges they face as they consider college. The film focuses on three of the young ladies: Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger and Tayla Solomon. These young women learn to laugh, love and thrive – on and off the stage – even when the world seems to work against them. Empowered by those close to them, they chase their ultimate dreams: to win a step championship and to be accepted into college.

Directed and produced by Amanda Lipitz, "Step" is a familiar yet inspiring tale of three inner city teens who chase their hopes and dreams through a step dance team. Like many sports films, step dance is merely the backdrop for the girls lives: they may go hungry, their parents may struggle keeping jobs and paying bills, and they also struggle with keeping their grades up to get in college. For at least two of the girls, Cori and Tayla, that doesn't seem to be a problem, but for the group's founder and leader, Blessin, it becomes a big struggle.

"Step" tends to have much of its focus on the hardships of Blessin, and it occasionally tends to wander too far away from the film's heart: that of its step dance, which this group is terrific at. Their formal step performances, particularly the last one, are electrifying, and if there's any doubt as to whether they win the big dance off, then you may not have paid much attention.

"Step" succeeds at being uplifting, though one of the few things it fails to do is recognize that not all stories like Cori, Tayla and Blessin turn out positively, but then the girls do have a nice community who cheers them on to success. If everyone had the community they do behind them, there might be many more success stories like this.

Regardless of what happens on the dance floor, what happens in life is much more important, and "Step" is fortunate to realize that. It's a must-see and one of the most heartwarming films of the year, and don't go without tissues.

#step #amandalipitz