After her mother's death, Sara is wracked by guilt and gives up on ballet. She moves in with her estranged father and transfers to an urban Chicago school. At her new high school, Sara is one of a handful of white students but quickly befriends Chenille, a single teen mother who is having relationship problems. Chenille invites Sara to a dance club called STEPPS, where she has her first experience of dancing to hip hop rhythms. At STEPPS, Sara meets Derek, Chenille's brother and a student with dreams of ultimately attending Georgetown Medical School. He decides to help Sara develop her dancing skills by incorporating more hip hop into her style. As they become closer, Derek takes a reluctant Sara to the Joffrey Ballet and, afterwards, Sara confides in him all about her mother and her dreams. Later, they return to the club and amaze others with their dancing. Having already achieved his dream of being accepted at Georgetown University for college, Derek convinces her that she needs to do what she wants, and to follow her dreams of Juilliard.
At school, Nikki, Derek's ex-girlfriend, picks a fight with Sara. Chenille tells Sara that she didn't approve of the fight but can understand the bitterness since Sara, a white girl, is seen as stealing one of the few half-decent black men in the school. Because of this, Sara breaks up with Derek. Meanwhile, Derek must deal with his friend Malaki, who is heavily into the gang lifestyle that Derek is trying to leave. Derek accepts Malaki's plea for support in a drive-by for the same time as Sara's audition.
Sara auditions for Juilliard for the second time, and Derek arrives at a crucial point to offer encouragement and moral support. Sara is accepted, as we see the drive by become botched and Malaki is arrested. The film closes as Sara, Chenille, Derek, and their friends meet up at STEPPS to celebrate Sara's successful audition.