Feet stamp. Hands clap. Voices join in. Before you know it, you are swept up in the excitement and exhilaration of the complex rhythms and formations of stepping. Step Afrika! is bringing this thrilling dance form which has been described as part body percussion and part poetry slam to New Jersey.
You may be familiar with stepping from movies such as Sylvain White’s “Stomp the Yard” or Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” I was introduced to it in the late 1980’s on the television show “A Different World” and on my college campus. The tradition of African stepping grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. As Step Afrika! explains, stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.
Step Afrika! brings the art of stepping to the stage as it is “the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping.” Based in Washington D.C., Step Afrika! travels the globe introducing the sights, sounds and rhythms of this uniquely American art form to the world. The company’s mission is to promote an appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition’s use as an educational tool for young people. After it performs in New Jersey, the company is heading on a tour of Croatia, Montenegro, and Latvia.
At 8 p.m. on Friday, April 12, the Pollock Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch will be hosting this distinctive company for an evening of stepping. Presented as part of the 2012-2013 Performing Arts series, the company will be dancing a mixed program of short works that speak to all aspects of the African American experience. Monmouth University, as part of its global education and “African Journeys” series, invited Step Afrika! not only to perform but also to present educational workshops in stepping to its students, area schools, and the community at large.
Want to try your feet at stepping? Don’t miss the Beginner’s Step Dance workshop with Step Afrika! on Thursday, April 11 at 3:30 p.m. in Anacon Hall on the Monmouth University Campus. No experience is needed and the workshop is open to the public.
Stepping enthusiastically engages the spectator. The rhythm of the dance mixes with the beat of your heart. I dare you to go and not come out snapping your fingers, tapping your toes, and smiling!
Workshop: Thursday, April 11, 3:30 p.m., Anacon Hall on the campus of Monmouth University, West Long Branch
Performance: Friday, April 12, 8:00 pm. Pollock Theatre at Monmouth University