by Marie LeBlanc, Community Partnerships Coordinator
What better way to celebrate the holiday season than with a step show? This month, Step Afrika! is ringing in the season with its Magical Musical Holiday Step Show. Last weekend, Catalogue’s Sherika Brooks and I stopped by the Atlas Performing Arts Center to check out the show and volunteer as ushers for the performance.
The Magical Musical Holiday Step Show demonstrated all that is good about Step Afrika!, and how traditional rhythms and moves can be translated into any type of dance celebration. While the holiday show is light, fun and family-friendly, the history of Step Afrika! and its work tells a very rich story.
Step Afrika! is the first professional company in the world dedicated to stepping. For almost 20 years, the company’s performances have celebrated the connection between the type of stepping common in college fraternities in the US and the gumboot dance, created by South African mineworkers. Step Afrika! brings its dance tradition to communities across the US through an annual college and theater tour, as well as performing across the world.
According to Step Afrika!, stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African American college students. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group. Though stepping is traditionally aligned with college fraternities, the art form is universal and highly appealing to young people. Today, stepping can be found in high, middle and elementary schools across the US as well as in churches and community-based organizations.
The Catalogue for Philanthropy and the greater Washington area are lucky to count Step Afrika! as part of its cultural community, and in fact, the first Cultural Ambassador for Washington DC. Check out additional performances of The Magical Musical Holiday Step Show this weekend, and find more information on other Catalogue culture nonprofits online here.