Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong, Melanie Nicholls-King
Ian Iqbal Rashid
An arguably more effective and entertaining film than its American-made dance-themed counterparts, "How She Move" is a low-budget Canadian/Caribbean flick that takes the tired old theme of talented hottie who can dance working her way out of the hood and turns it into a surprisingly intelligent, sensitive and energetic film.
Raya (newcomer Rutina Wesley) is forced to leave her elite prep school after her older sister's death by drug overdose decimates the family's finances. Instantly seen as a snooty outsider, especially by bad girl Michelle (Tre Armstrong), Raya begins to disintegrate into the world that claimed her sister before she realizes, with the help of beau Bishop (Dwain Murphy), that her gift for step-dancing may be her ticket to a better life.
While the story sounds formulaic, director Ian Iqbal Rashid ("Touch of Pink") and screenwriter Annmarie Morais have combined to craft a film that transcends its formulaic roots by developing characters who matter and a storyline that includes choices and conflicts that go far deeper than the usual high-energy dance pic.
Rashid is a patient director and takes the time to develop relationships, perhaps most notably that of conflict between Raya and Michelle.
This would be meaingless, of course, without a cast capable of going beyond electrifying dance moves, and beautiful newcomer Wesley imbues Raya with a strength and vulnerability that seems to crawl underneath her skin. The remainder of the ensemble cast also shine, most notably Tre Armstrong and Melanie Nicholls-King in a relatively brief appearance as Raya's mother.
Choreographed by Hi Hat, the dance sequences in "How She Move" are electrifying and complement the way Raya moves in her personal life, her relationships and her inner emotions.
While the similarly themed "Stomp the Yard" was a satisfying film, "How She Move" is an emotionally resonant film stimulates the heart and mind along with the body.
A bit of a surprising offer from indie distributor Paramount Vantage, "How She Move" is a rarity among dance films...a film that is as comfortable and entertaining when its characters are still and silent as it is when they are exploding on the dance floor.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic