Stomp the Yard

When D.J.’s college-bound brother is killed in a dance fight (by the only face in the film that isn’t black, read into that what you will), he takes his place at Truth University, a black college in Atlanta. Apparently college scholarships are kind of like beauty salon vouchers, easily transferable. There he encounters “Stepping”, group street dancing performed by the campus fraternities as a way of proving their dominance. No one in the movie ever seems to attend classes, so with nothing else to do it’s not long before D.J. brings his extreme street moves to Truth’s down and out Theta Nu Theta frat.

The only thing that sets Stomp the Yard apart from its street dance genre brothers is that it uses line dancing. It’s the achey breaky of dance movies, just because the moves are performed to rap music doesn’t make them any more cool. But, like all the other movies of this type Stomp the Yard is completely artificial. There’s not a single moment of reality in the film. Characters are nothing more than thin, facades. People obsessed with posturing and putting up a front, rather than behaving has human beings. Stomp the Yard keeps it real, real fake and real stupid.

Worse, it’s hard to sympathize with D.J. Sure his brother is dead but he’s kind of a jerk. The only real adversity he faces in the film comes from a competing dancer at another fraternity. But the only reason they’re enemies is that D.J. tries to steal the guy’s girl. Naturally, this pisses him off. Are we supposed to hate him? What’s the guy supposed to do? Stand there and clap while D.J. sticks his tongue down his girlfriend’s throat?

The thing that continues to baffle me about these movies, and the whole street dancing thing in general is that there’s this insistence on trying to portray synchronized dancing as masculine. I’m not buying it. You can dress them up in combat fatigues and dance to 50 Cent’s greatest hits, but the difference between D.J. and Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance are pretty minimal. Let’s be honest about what these guys are doing, put them in leotards and let them run around skipping.

Leading up to the film there’s been a lot of talk about what a rich and important tradition “Stepping” is at black universities. If there’s some historical significance to it, that’s not addressed in Stomp the Yard. The film never gets beyond portraying “Stepping” as yet another way for two-bit punks to prove which of them is the biggest asshole. If you want to watch a movie about superficial assholes pretending to be Lords of the Dance as a way of gaining masculine credibility, then go see Stomp the Yard. These kids are on the fast track to becoming Kevin Federline.

Josh Tyler