How She Move opens by intercutting home-movie footage of two young sisters practicing step dancing with the fierce, mature moves of solitary, miserable teenage Raya (Rutina Wesley), a melding of past and present cannily reflected in the accompanying hip-hop track’s use of “The Wheels on the Bus” for its chorus’s melody. The impact of that forceful intro, which succinctly expresses the film’s primary conflict between heritage and ambition, is largely diffused by subsequent, exposition-filled narration, but director Ian Iqbal Rashid’s story is—unlike the step dancing that functions as its main attraction—generally more delicate than blunt. After her parents spend their life savings, including her boarding school tuition, on futile medical treatments to save her older sibling Pam, gifted student Raya goes back to the inner city Toronto high school where former friends, including Michelle (Tre Armstrong), resent her for abandoning them. Raya’s return to her old stomping ground, and successful efforts to join the competitive all-male step dancing team led by Bishop (Dwain Murphy) in order to raise money for college, ignites class, gender, and racial tensions, and How She Move navigates them nimbly, refusing to resort to sermonizing in service of either its subtextual or basic narrative concerns. While the script doesn’t always fully develop Raya’s choices, its treatment of her conflicted feelings over Pam’s demise and her strained relationship with Michelle has a surprising gracefulness. That Raya’s rhythmic, stomp-heavy dance performances provide her with an outlet for rage and grief would be more corny if Wesley’s dancing wasn’t so ferocious, and if Rashid’s depiction of his tale’s run-down milieu and its underground dance scene didn’t exude authenticity. Still, though less shiny and polished as Stomp the Yard, Rashid’s film nonetheless remains a similarly contrived saga. And thus in spite of its modest restraint and occasional electricity—as well as accomplished turns from its cast—How She Moves ultimately would have benefited from a finale that not only shattered car windows (à la Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video), but also hackneyed storytelling conventions.
- Paramount Vantage
- 94 min
- Ian Iqbal Rashid
- Annmarie Morais
- Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong, Brennan Gademans, Cle Bennett, Kevin Duhaney, Shawn Desman, Tristan D. Lalla, Daniel Morrison, Romina D'Urgo, Tanisa Scott
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