Stomp the Yard Sylvain White

Stomp the Yard begins bizarrely with a surreal portrayal of L.A. underground street dance competitions that could have been directed by David Lynch, complete with a midget officiant and someone inexplicably dressed in a bunny suit. When the dance battle ends in inevitable tragedy, the film takes a stylistic shift to tell the "fish out of water” story of street dancer DJ (Columbus Short), who is sent to an elite African American college in Atlanta. There he is introduced to the fraternity tradition of step dancing, where his dance prowess makes him much sought after by rival frats looking to win the upcoming national Step Show competition.

He also immediately falls for April (Meagan Good), who is dating Grant (Darrin Henson) the arrogant star stepper of champion fraternity Mu Gamma Xi. Resistant at first to the relative goofiness of step dancing ("I don’t step, I battle”), DJ ends up lending his skills to underdog frat Theta Nu Theta.

Needless to say, there is a lot of dance fighting in this movie. There are also a lot of dance training montages. Columbus Short (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) is likeable in the lead role, but the story is a cookie-cutter triumph over adversity, "learn to work together as a team” tale that is typical of any sports movie.

More interesting is the film’s setting, the relatively unexplored territory of the African American university campus (it’s been a long time since Spike Lee’s School Daze). While the film’s attempt to instil pride in the rich history of this university tradition is laudable; it’s glorification of the fraternity system borders on propaganda, barely dealing with the realities of elitism and glossing over the hazing rituals entirely.

Still, the dance sequences are fun to watch, although sometimes director Sylvain White (betraying his music video and commercial roots) would have better served the film if he eased up on the clever camera work and frenetic editing to let the movement speak for itself.

(Sony)