In this romantic drama, two teenagers in love struggle to look past their differences. After the unexpected death of her mother, Sarah Johnson (Julia Stiles) moves to Chicago to live with her father. Knowing no one at her new school and not at home in a gritty, inner-city high school, Sarah has trouble adjusting, but she soon becomes friends with Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), who has talent and street smarts but a checkered past. Sarah was an avid student of ballet before her mother's death sidelined her studies, while Derek has some serious hip-hop moves, and their mutual love of dance leads their friendship into something deeper. However, since Sarah is white and Derek is black, they have more to contend with than the average high school couple; Sarah gets static from Nikki (Bianca Lawson), Derek's former girlfriend, while Derek has to deal with his friend Malakai (Fredro Starr), who is still deep in the thug life Derek is trying to avoid. Save the Last Dance was directed by Thomas Carter, who previously examined the sociopolitical side of dancing in Swing Kids.