Step was originally developed by, and is still strongly associated with, black fraternities and sororities—so at first it's a little weird to see the dance form used as a signifier for the authenticity of the projects. Raya (Rutina Wesley) attends the fancy Seaton Academy, and wants to go to medical school, but when her junkie sister spirals out of control and finally dies, her Jamaican immigrant parents can't afford to keep her there. So she slinks back home to a dismal high-rise in Toronto's Jane-Finch corridor. There, she clashes with her childhood friend Michelle (Tre Armstrong), who promptly challenges her to a step-off. Slipping into her old ways (competitive dancing, how naughty!), Raya regains the trust of her peers and attracts the attention of a young hottie with a gap between his front teeth—all the while studying up for a big scholarship exam.
The only reason to watch How She Move is the elaborate, thrilling dance routines at the climactic competition. Of course, you have to wade through some useless narrative to get there. (I think Raya's team rehearses in a garage just so their final number can include the spectacular totaling of a beater.) The plot stutters badly, and the screenplay doesn't try very hard to develop the characters, but there are a few saving graces. The first is the culture clash: Hollywood deals with the subject fairly regularly, but the Canadian-Caribbean accents are at least novel. And then Melanie Nicholls-King, as Raya's strict mother, gives such a specific, sympathetic performance that you almost forget you're watching one of the oldest sports clichés on the books. She's there just to hold Raya back, and then suddenly and inexplicably relent, but Nicholls-King makes that ancient formula seem somehow sweet.