Stomp the Yard
DJ and his team of urban hip-hop dancers mix it up at an underground L.A. competition and sashay away with a bucketful of prize money. But while celebrating their well-deserved victory, the group is attacked by a rival team and DJ's brother ends up dead. Since DJ is the only one around when the cops arrive, he's arrested and convicted—of what, exactly, the film doesn't say. All we know is that instead of jail or juvie, he's sent to Atlanta where his aunt and uncle arrange for him to attend the affluent Truth University.
The collegiate world leaves the former street kid feeling like a fish out of water until he discovers stepping—an age-old style of dance with a strong connection to African-American fraternities. It's a combination of complex dance steps incorporating cheerleading, military and drill-team moves, and rhythmic sounds created with hands and feet. When DJ injects a little of his West Coast style into the mix, he's suddenly in demand and placed at the center of a fierce rivalry between two fraternities.
Somewhere in the midst of step shows and college classes, DJ starts wooing the beautiful April. Her dad, the school provost, is not happy with his daughter's dating choices, however. And her very jealous ex-boyfriend is none-too-pleased about it either.
When DJ arrives in Atlanta, his uncle, who also leads his study group, sets some ground rules and holds the young man accountable: 1) Keep your grades up. 2) You won't be treated any differently than the other students. 3) Three strikes and you're out.
Consistently loving and supportive, that uncle and his wife open their home to DJ and get him into the university. DJ, meanwhile, talks to his mom on the phone and tells her, "I'm not quitting. I promised you I'd try—that's my word."
As DJ gets to know April, he approaches her with respect, offers to hear out her problems and is attentive in ways that eventually impress her and draw her to him. Later, when DJ raises questions about why students follow certain traditions, April suggests he visit Heritage Hall. He does so and is moved by the black history that is represented there.
DJ's fraternity leader, Sly, constantly stresses that their work in stepping, as in life, will bear more fruit if they work as a team. DJ initially pushes his maverick ways, but when his actions cause a loss in a competition he realizes the wisdom of Sly's words and apologizes to the team.
When someone at the school discovers DJ's police record and gets him suspended by the ethics committee (and the provost offers to reinstate him if he'll stay away from his daughter), DJ stands his ground but always shows respect to those in charge. The movie ends with a Martin Luther King Jr. quote: "Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education."
Before the big state-wide stepping championship, a team prays/recites scripture together. DJ's team yells, "Lord have mercy!"
Bare midriffs, skintight low-cut tops and short shorts are the wardrobe of choice for many of the girls—April included—on and off campus. April is shown in a slow-motion, bouncing, running scene. And after a vigorous, sweaty workout, DJ and his fraternity teammates are shown shirtless, posing with muscular beefcake grace on a windswept hillside.
After April breaks up with her boyfriend, Grant, she winds up outside DJ's dorm room. She indicates that she wants to spend the night and they walk in and close the door. Later they're shown studying together while lying on his bed. (He is shirtless—again.) The two kiss at several points.
DJ's roommate points out the things that he doesn't want him to touch, including condoms. And when a guy dances closely behind a female partner, someone says, "Hope he had a condom on." While ogling a girl's backside, a guy makes a rude remark about already having had sex with her. During the step shows, the dancers occasionally grab their own crotches.
After a fight that includes punching and someone being hit in the head with a brick, a teen brandishes a gun and shoots DJ's brother in the head. (The impact is offscreen.) We then see DJ fall to his knees and cradle his bleeding, dying brother.
The step shows can be fairly volatile with aggressive taunting movements and strong physical tumbles and throws, but there's never any injury depicted. The dancers also use some potentially dangerous props for their routines such as an exploding crate and a giant bear trap.
Crude or Profane Language
The s-word is used once, while "h---" is uttered over 10 times. An additional 15-plus other crudities and profanities are spoken ("d--n," "a--," "b--ch"), including a reference to female anatomy and several mentions of the n-word. God's name is profaned once in combination with "d--n." An obscene gesture is made.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Along with other students, DJ and April are shown drinking beer and shots of alcohol at a local bar. Students also drink beer at their frat house. The lyrics of a rap song blaring in the background mention a fondness for marijuana, something the song says sells for $6 an ounce.
Other Negative Elements
With Stomp the Yard's opening urban dance-off and back-alley brawl I thought I knew exactly where this film was going to take me. I was sure to see lots of sexualized dancing, lots of skin and lots of L.A. inner-city violence. But after the brief intro the movie handed me a surprise. Yes, Stomp is a little clichéd and stiff with a fairly predictable story that includes a violent murder, a number of cleavage-baring outfits and implied sex. But along with that, it proves itself to be one of those films that attempts to show black teens as more than Hollywood-stereotypical gangstas or hoopsters. (It slips a bit when it shows posters of 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg, the implication being that these two rappers are worthy of role model status.)
These youthful steppers dance with an intense, powerful ferocity—the director's camera jigging and swooping to synchronize with their every thump and rhythmic twist. But more than that, the movie shows us kids who have goals in life. They're talented individuals who talk of brotherhood and want an education. These are young people who care about their heritage and their honor. They support one another, work together, pray together and, yes, respect their elders. And speaking of elders, this flick features caring and consistent adults who hold the young people accountable and apologize when they realize they're wrong.
I'm not turning a blind eye to the scattered profanity and the sexy visuals that will rightly keep many families at bay. But I have to say that Stomp the Yard, with its superbly creative dance and likable characters, is definitely stepping in the right direction.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Columbus Short as DJ; Meagan Good as April; Darrin Henson as Grant; Brian White as Sylvester; Laz Alonso as Zeke
Sylvain White ( The Losers)