Review: Sisters step it with style

“How She Move” is a girl-meets-stomp story that dazzles as a dance showcase, stumbles as an urban melodrama, and serves up enough agreeably natural current among its dynamic young protagonists to emerge above the middling mark.

The latest release representing the mini-mini-genre that has given us dance-as-transformation fare as diverse as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Shall We Dance” and last year’s step-dance-themed “Stomp the Yard,” the film adds more “step,” plus grit and Canada, to the picture. Director Ian Iqbal Rashid (“Touch of Pink”) supplies style and energy. All the movie needs is a fresh story.

Raya (Rutina Wesley), a studious Toronto teen, is forced to leave her high-achieving private school and return to her crime-plagued old hood after the drug-related death of her sister makes it impossible for her working-class parents (Melanie Nicholls-King, Conrad Coates) to pay her tuition. Viewed as a stuck-up preppie, Raya tries to assimilate by joining the step-dance crowd. The response proves uneven: Tough girl Michelle (Tre Armstrong) becomes Raya’s rival. Love interest Bishop (Dwain Murphy) admires Raya’s “serious step” and puts Raya on his all-male dance team.

Raya’s goal: to receive her share of a $50,000 dance-contest prize and use it as her ticket to medical school. Her shakiness as a team player nearly dooms those ambitions.

Visually, Rashid creates a stylishly low-budget, gritty-chic look. Tonally, he presents his characters’ interactions with engaging naturalism. Whether Bishop’s team is rehearsing atop a car or Raya and Michelle are getting sisterly, something genuine and vital is happening.

The dancing adds superb juice. As the characters display their moves, a solid picture of the specifics of “step” surfaces. The flashy, costumed numbers, choreographed by Hi Hat, are enjoyable and vibrant.

Unfortunately, however, there’s not much of a story here. Annmarie Morais’ refreshingly girl-focused but sadly cliched screenplay subjects Raya and company to so many contrivances as they stomp and slap their way to glory that you can’t feel invested in their situation or their transformation. The most interesting characters — Raya’s Jamaican immigrant parents — get frustratingly little screen time.

Credits

How She Move

Starring Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong, Dwain Murphy and Melanie Nicholls-King

Written by Annmarie Morais

Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour 38 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Lers Ros Thai restaurant on Larkin Street in the Tenderloin is one of many throughout The City to have begun offering outdoor dining through the Shared Spaces program since the pandemic began. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Bay Area counties to shut down outdoor dining, non-essential businesses

Regional stay-at-home order to take effect Sunday, sooner than statewide order announced Thursday

Former Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant walks up to receive his 2017-18 Championship ring at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Durant, now playing with the Brooklyn Nets, will play against his former team at Chase Center in February. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Kevin Durant to face former teammates at Chase Center in February

Schedule released Friday calls for Warriors to play Christmas and New Year’s Day games

Photo by Abalone Runner/ <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74406455" target="_blank">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>
Former Newsom spokesman Nathan Ballard facing domestic violence, child abuse charges

Prominent Bay Area political strategist Nathan Ballard is facing domestic violence and… Continue reading

Construction crews work on new red bus rapid transit lanes on Van Ness Avenue on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA board scrutinizes Van Ness BRT spending

Proposed contract modification would allocate $2.6 million for pedestrian monitors

Mayor London Breed said “I need to hold myself to a higher standard” in response to criticism of a recent meal at a Napa Valley restaurant. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Breed calls criticism for French Laundry trip ‘fair’

Mayor said she regrets that actions ‘distracted’ from public health message as COVID-19 cases rise

Most Read