BY RUTH RICE
Keeping in step with heritage.
In celebration of Black History Month, the dance troupe Step Afrika! will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.
Stepping has been described as a way to make music using the body as an instrument.
The music comes from the synchronized interplay of hands and feet, creating jazz, funk, rhythm and blues and rap without instruments.
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 matchless dance 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 U.S., as well as in churches and community-based organizations.
Step Afrika! is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping.
One of its performances has been described as a perfect, rhythmic storm with high-energy movements with feet and hands.
Executive director C. Brian Williams first learned how to step as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Beta Chapter, at Howard University.
While living in Africa, he began researching stepping, exploring the many sides of this under-recognized American art form and founding Step Afrika! in 1994.
Williams is co-founder of the Step Afrika! International Cultural Festival in Johannesburg and is featured in “Soulstepping,” the first book to document the history of stepping.
The company is celebrated worldwide for its efforts to promote an appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition’s use as an educational tool for young people.
The troupe, which is based in Washington, D.C., completes an annual 50-city tour of colleges and theaters from Maine to Mississippi and is a national model for the use of stepping in education, supporting themes such as teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding.
Step Afrika! is a frequent partner of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Washington Performing Arts Society and has graced some of America’s most prestigious stages from the White House to the Lincoln Center in New York City.
The internationally acclaimed troupe has performed on stages in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
What: Step Afrika!
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12.
Tickets: $15, $22 and $25.
Information: 269-7200, 800-846-2787 or www.upjarts.org.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.