Stepping High (NR)

Drama 98 June 14, 2013
By Sherrie Li
When it comes to dance movies, you shouldn’t set the bar too high in terms of plotting. But Stepping High’s attempts at story mostly lead to offensive stereotyping. The film opens with a Glee-like audition of 32-year-old Sima (Palmer Davis), an out-of-work dancer who takes a teaching job at a conservative high school and inevitably stirs things up. By default, we sympathize with Sima’s fight to encourage “progressive thought” via bellydancing, which pits her against the head-bitch-in-charge principal, her rigid father, and the racist, Footloose-style pastor. These antagonists are extremely illogical and frustratingly ignorant, but Sima’s juvenile behavior is comparably annoying: throwing temper tantrums at the family dinners and giggling in bed on the phone with her secret boyfriend like some teen girl from the Grease era. The film’s failures are born from an overdramatic script that has a tendency to state the obvious—and that uses domestic abuse as a convenient plot point to catalyze the resolution of Sima’s conflict. The only saving grace is the dancing, featuring (and choreographed by) So You Think You Can Dance alums. Of course, how these kids, who are only casually taking this class, come to dance like professionals is never explained. But that’s the least of the unanswered questions. Stepping High proves to be just as ill-equipped to handle serious cultural and societal issues as Glee is (replace the singing with dancing) and should be enjoyed—if that—in the same way: Skip the narrative and just watch the numbers.
Henri Charr Palmer Davis, Amir M. Korangy, Mary Carrig, Kent Boyd, Ryan Ramirez, Paulina Pulido, Jordan Sessions Fa King, Sreescanda Jess Mancilla