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Wilmington Dance: Community, Rhythm and Tradition in Stepping

Thursday, October 11, 2018

You may know stepping from movies such as Drumline and Stomp the Yardbut it is so much more than a fun dance performance. With deep historical roots, stepping embraces a careful balance of skill, energy and audience adrenaline. Celebrate Wilmington dance with Step Afrika!’s performance at Kenan Auditorium on Thursday, October 18th. In anticipation of the performance, we decided to learn a little bit more about where stepping came from.  

Step Afrika Wilmington DanceAnyone who has experienced a live stepping performance will tell you that it’s not just a form of dance—its an art form. With synchronized movements, percussive beats, storytelling, humor and audience participation, stepping is more than meets the eye.  

While scholars have yet to credit a specific time period for stepping, we know that the art form is African in origin. Stepping draws inspiration from African foot dances like Gumboot, and has continued to evolve in movement and style. To keep all of these moving parts alive, steppers must work as a close-knit unit. This tradition of community bonding can be traced back to historically African American fraternities and sororities who began stepping in the early 1900s. With teamwork built into its practice, many organizations continue to form stepping teams to strengthen their unity.  

Stepping has been featured at the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, performed during the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and showcased on popular dance competition shows such as America’s Best Dance Crew. The art of stepping has braided itself into the cultural fabric of the United States, and steppers commonly perform in schools, churches and organizations across the country. 

Learn more by joining us for a live stepping performance at Kenan Auditorium on Thursday, October 18th to see Step Afrika! One of the top ten African American dance companies in the United States, Step Afrika! differs from other stepping organizations thanks to its emphasis on education for young people. With a focus on teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding, Step Afrika! reaches tens of thousands of Americans and international audiences yearly through tours of colleges and theatres. 

-Lindsay Lake