It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Stomp the Yard (2007), the sports inspirational dance film, directed by Sylvain White. I can’t believe it’s thirteen years-old and these other dance films are at least that old too.
Today’s viewing puts the total number of times I’ve watched this film at approximately ten. While I jotted down thoughts as the film played (including the refreshing lack of smart phones and the cell phones that were in use were strictly modes of communication — there was no social media happening in the story world), it made sense to me suddenly why pride, pain, and sadness underpin nearly all sports inspirationals and the redemption narrative. The athlete protagonist cannot evolve nor can he win if he refuses to acknowledge he’s too proud to admit he’s hurting due to a figurative or literal loss (or both). Anger is easy and however understandable an emotion it is to inhabit, it often masks more than it purges. Athleticism is a conduit for and symbol of psychological struggle. Although it is most evident in boxing and football films, where physicality is highlighted, the kind of dancing that Stomp the Yard depicts drives this message home very well. Moreover, the main character DJ (Columbus Short), must learn how to be a part of a team — the crux of virtually all sports films about teams.
Additionally, what sports inspirational would be complete without a female character who may or may not be a love interest but who profoundly affects the protagonist’s journey? For DJ, that woman (Meagan Good) not only witnesses the start of his psychological healing, but she facilitates his ability to complete his redemption as an actual plot point.
According to the making-of featurette, the director operated the camera during the dance sequences. He incorporated cinematographic styles from sports films and martial arts films. I did not fully appreciate his aesthetic choices upon the initial screening, but now I do. Having the camera in the midst of all the choreography is much more effective in conveying energy and intensity than from a merely voyeuristic position.