People of all ages and backgrounds filled Florida State University’s Ruby Diamond Concert Hall Tuesday to experience the marvelously skilled and talented members of Step Afrika!
The high-energy and crowd engaging show kept the audience locked in until the very end, presenting different styles of stepping, traditional African dances and history as well as an array of contemporary dance and art forms to create a compelling, artistic experience.
Step Afrika! company members were eager to get the audience involved, giving many opportunities throughout the show for crowd participation.
They began with a step competition between the gentlemen of and ladies of Step Afrika! to determine who were the best steppers, and they allowed the audience to be the judges. After the first two rounds, both male and female teams came together to perform a unity step, a concept that was emphasized and portrayed at the beginning of the event and throughout the night.
Step Afrika! then invited members of the audience to join them on stage to create a unity step team, teaching them the basics of Step Afrika! stepping and chanting, along with sitting them on stage to witness an African dance firsthand. All company members wore extravagant garments. The ladies were donned in colorful, beaded clothing and the gentlemen were garbed in animal skins and brown colored clothing while dancing to the rhythm of traditional African drums, also played by Step Afrika! company members.
Nadeje Pierre, director of development and operations of the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Bend, stepped with Step Afrika! when she was in high school, moving her to bring her students to the show in honor of Black History Month.
“It is very important for us to teach the youth that we serve their history and where they come from,” the FAMU alumna said. “We just want them to see a celebration of culture and celebrate who you are.”
Step Afrika! kicked off FSU Opening Night’s month-long celebration of Black History Month, showcasing the percussive dance styles practiced by African American fraternities and sororities and traditional West and Southern African dances such as the South African Gumboot Dance, a dance that was performed during the show.
Akievia Hickman, a Step Afrika! company member. explained the importance of bringing Step Afrika! to a predominantly white institution during Black History Month.
“It’s a tribute to the Divine Nine, which historically started at HBCUs, so it’s always good to pay tribute back to where it all started,” the Tallahassee native said. “And, of course, Step Afrika! is all about a cultural exchange so being able to tell our story and being able to just help other people that don’t know what’s going on, and how it started, understand.”
Step Afrika is the first professional company of its kind, dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The company promotes stepping as an educational tool for youth by focusing on teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding.
To learn more about Step Afrika!, visit their website at www.stepafrika.org.