Step Afrika came to Wadsworth Auditorium on Saturday night to give an energizing show that left pleased audience members on the edge of their seats.
"And so, without further ado, please welcome Step Afrika!" announced Limelight and Accents Coordinators Kelsey Ryan, senior, and Ahmed Sheikh, junior, kicking off the Step Afrika performance.
The room instantly plunged into total darkness and out of the silence came several loud shouts and the sounds of clapping and stomping. When the lights came up, they revealed a circle of people dancing and chanting with increasing excitement and rhythm. As the lighting on stage intensified, so did the cadence and complexity of the performers' movements.
According to Stepafrika.org, the Washington, D.C. based dance company is, "the first professional company dedicated to stepping." The Web site describes stepping as "an art form born at African American fraternities and based in African traditions." Living up to that reputation, the group started off the night with a dance that indeed spoke to the values of fraternity and sorority.
Dressed in jeans and T-shirts emblazoned with Greek letters, the group executed a truly complex routine complete with formation changes, humor and incredible precision. They created rhythms through kicks, jumps and arm movements, much to the amazement of the audience.
The next segment of the show featured one of the female company members explaining the birth of stepping teams in the U.S. as a result of blacks finally being allowed to attend universities and form their own Greek organizations. Following this presentation, audience members were invited to join the dancers onstage to learn a short, basic routine from two of the male performers.
After learning the routine, two participants were given costumes to wear as Step Afrika "went back in time" to expose the roots of stepping in the African culture. This section of the show incorporated sensational drumming and brightly colored and feathered outfits.
The performance soon shifted back to the present day as the members of the group showed a video portraying their participation in cultural events in Africa. One of the performers appeared wearing rubber boots, loose pants and a tank top that he admitted came from Wal-Mart. This, he explained, was the attire of a modern-day worker in the diamond mines of Africa. Following this explanation, the group performed the South African Gumboot Dance - an art form created by the miners during lunch breaks to lift their spirits throughout long hours in harsh conditions. The boots also brought a unique sound and feeling to the performance.
The last section of the performance consisted of two parts. The first was a duet that melded tap dancing with stepping and served to highlight the similarities and differences between these two art forms and the last was another fraternity/sorority style dance.
Following the completion of their performance, the Step Afrika troupe provided the audience with brief introductions of its members, took one last collective bow, and left the stage followed by thunderous applause.