‘Step’ director captures powerful women chasing their dreams

The documentary film “Step” is about so much more than a step dance team of high-school seniors as they approach a big competition. It’s about dreams, hardship and the role of education.

We’ve all seen documentaries about The Big Competition, in which a hardscrabble team gets ready for the ultimate challenge. Amanda Lipitz’s “Step,” about a group of young women at an inner-city Baltimore high school preparing for a step dance competition, looks on the surface like it might be one of those films.

But you realize, watching it (and, if you’re me, shedding a few tears along the way), that it’s not really about winning the competition — it’s about following dreams, about the role of education in overcoming hardship, and about how making music with your body makes you feel like you just might, perhaps, be able to do anything. These girls, said Lipitz, in town for the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this summer, were going to win in any case, “because they were going to go to college.”

“Step,” which opens locally on August 11, has a Seattle connection: Vulcan Productions came on early as executive producers of the film. “At Vulcan, education is obviously at the heart of what we do, so a documentary about the importance of learning was right smack at our core,” said Carole Tomko, Vulcan Productions’ general manager and creative director.

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Rated PG for thematic elements and some language. Opens Friday, August 11.

“When we saw the footage and [Lipitz] asked us to be involved and come on board, it was an absolute no brainer for us. It hit every single chord that we want to hit at Vulcan Productions.”

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For Lipitz, however, “Step” was born years ago, at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a public charter school founded in 2009 by Lipitz’s mother, Brenda Brown Rever. The school’s goal for its students, many of whom are from financially struggling families, is 100 percent college acceptance. Lipitz, a Baltimore-born Broadway producer, had been involved with a national project in which she made short films about first-generation college students and girls’ education. “My mother said, so you’re going to make films for me, too, right?”

At BLSYW during its early years, Lipitz met Blessin, Cori and Tayla — the three girls who would become the center of…

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