Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Sylvain White Made "Stomp the Yard" Step with Fire

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 79 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Stomp the Yard (2007)
Running time: 114 minutes (1 hour, 54 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for a scene of violence, some sexual material, and language
DIRECTOR: Sylvain White
WRITERS: Robert Adetuyi (based upon Gregory Anderson’s earlier screenplay)
PRODUCERS: William Packer and Rob Hardy
EDITOR: David Checel
NAACP Image Awards nominee


Starring: Columbus Short, Meagan Good, Ne-Yo, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Brian J. White, Laz Alonso, Valarie Pettiford, Jermaine Williams, Allan Louis, Harry J. Lennix, Allan Louis, and Chris Brown

In the film, Stomp the Yard, “stepping,” an ages-old style of dance done by African-American college fraternities, takes center stage. Steppers demonstrate complex moves and use their bodies to create rhythmic sounds (slapping their legs, clapping their hands, stomping their feet, etc.) While the drama is certainly good, this film’s electric vibe is the result of both Sylvain White’s direction and Dave Scott’s choreography.

After the shooting death of his brother, Duron (Chris Brown), Darnell James Williams or DJ (Columbus Short), a talented Los Angeles street dancer, finds himself in Atlanta with his Aunt Jackie (Valarie Pettiford) and Uncle Nate (Harry J. Lennix) and attending the historically black college, Truth University. As DJ struggles to adjust to this new world, much of it about class and privilege, his life becomes even more complicated when two rival fraternities recruit him. Mu Gamma Xi has won the college step championship for 7 years in a row. Theta Nu Theta wants to win, and they see DJ, with his hip-hop inspired moves, as the stepper who will get them over Mu Gamma’s title hump. However, it is DJ’s romance of April Palmer (Meagan Good), the refined daughter of Dean William Palmer (Allan Louis) and the girlfriend of Mu Gamma’s star stepper, Grant (Darrin Dewitt Henson), that just might derail his college career.

It is of great importance to reiterate how good the film’s raucous dancing is and how much of the film’s drama is invested in these astonishing dance moves. That’s why quite a bit of the film’s success should be credited to Dave Scott, who also choreographed You Got Served. Scott skillfully blends various dance styles into something new and very explosive.

Still, it’s director Sylvain White (I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer) who builds a sustainable narrative structure and riveting character drama out of the dancing. For the film’s opening minutes, White creates a sequence that is as intense and visually vibrant and forceful as anything in the film 300, which was released about a month after Stomp the Yard. White adroitly balances the eye-popping dance numbers with the drama of college life. In fact, White has directed the most realistic film about African-American college life since Spike Lee’s School Daze.

White makes the best of his leads, Columbus Short, who is more willing as an actor than he is skilled (so far), and Meagan Good, who is pretty but still very raw as an actress. Short is an accomplished dancer, having toured with Savion Glover’s “Stomp” dance extravaganza. Through the duo of Short and Good, however, White makes potent social statements about class conflict amongst African-Americans and also poverty and justice, and all the while, Stomp the Yard dances until your heart and spirit soar with these stunning steppers.

7 of 10

Friday, May 18, 2007

2008 Image Awards: 3 nominations: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Columbus Short), “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical or Television” (Sylvain White), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Meagan Good)


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