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How She Move

2008-06-19 09:21
What it's about:

Raya Green's parents spend all her private school tuition money trying to keep her junky sister alive. But after her sister dies, Raya (Rutina Wesley) is forced to move back to her old, bad neighbourhood. As she tries to survive her childhood ghetto, Raya joins a dance crew in the hopes of winning a $50 000 step contest so she can return to her preppy high school, while unexpectedly rekindling her love for step dance.

What we thought of it:

This is You Got Served meets Stomp the Yard, but with heart, better dance routines and a strong female lead.

What began as a small Canadian movie shot hand-held on low-budget 16mm film has become an edgy Hollywood step dance feature film. After its premier at the Sundance Film Festival, distribution house Paramount Vantage dished out millions (double the films original $5 million budget) for an upgrade – making the film "American friendly" by removing Canadian references and reshooting dance sequences.

If you were disappointed by the choreography in Step Up 2 The Streets, director Ian Iqbal Rashid's graphic visuals blow most dance movies out the water. Rashid doesn't rush through the step sequences with quick cuts and flashy editing. Instead he holds shots long enough for you to appreciate New Yorker Hi-Hat's choreography in all its stepping glory.

Although the coming-of-age story is straightforward, How She Move isn't just about steppin'. Where "hood" films portray young women as trifling hoochies, Jamaican-Canadian screenwriter Annmarie Morais creates strong, black women who won't be put down. Morais' script is built on a fearless protagonist who holds her own amongst the beefy guys, which is not easy given her tiny, feminine frame.

Almost the entire cast is Canadian-born and the casting directors have maintained convention by selecting dancers for whom acting is of lesser importance to their career. Juilliard graduate Rutina Welsey is electric as Raya, while unknown Dwain Murphy makes for an adequate alpha male. Even Tre Armstrong (a choreographer by trade) does a bang-up job as the misunderstood ex-best friend.

If you're looking for a dance movie with family drama, adolescent tragedy, hearty spirit and great choreography, How She Move is the one for you.

- Megan Kakora

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High energy levels and sheer audacity make this gender-challenging step film one of the best dance movies of 2008.

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