Stepping Up

unique troupe taps into on 100-year-old dance rituals

Dustin Hahn

Step Afrika! is the first professional company devoted to “stepping,” a unique dance created by African-American college students in which the body – not traditional instruments – is used to create music. Through series of claps, footsteps, and spoken word, stepping creates its own beat and its own music. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by African-American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. It has since become a tradition in many African-based communities and organizations. Stepping can be found everywhere today, from elementary schools to churches. Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, who first learned about stepping in his fraternity at Howard University. Since then, this Washington, D.C.-based group has performed all over the world (they just finished a weeklong trip to Paraguay) and is a frequent partner of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Washington Performing Arts Society. They also perform at schools: Step Afrika! has an arts education program which brings stepping to students of diverse backgrounds, from kindergarten through college. For younger audiences, stepping is used to teach the English language and social studies and as a tool to demonstrate life skills (such as teamwork, discipline, and commitment). For older student audiences, classes discuss the history of stepping and match it in with other African-American traditions. For its efforts, in 2006 the group won the Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Art Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education. Don’t miss out on this chance to see Step Afrika!, an amazing display of dance, music, and art that is bound to teach you something along the way.

UW-Eau Claire Artists Series: Step Afrika! • Tuesday, March 26 • 7:30pm • Zorn Arena • $17, public; $15, UW System faculty/staff and age 62 and over;  $7, UW System student and age 17 and under (student tickets are $3.50 until the day of the show) • (715) 836-3727 or (800) 949-8932

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