Stepping is a rhythmic performance art practiced by Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities across the nation. It combines intricate footwork, foot stomps, hand movements, vocals, and handclaps. Stepping is also an expression of unity.
“When you come together in synchronized motions, you’re becoming one,” says Aurelius Butler, Treasurer of Alpha Phi Alpha, Mu chapter. “For us, stepping signifies brotherhood. We will never tell a brother he couldn’t step. If he’s a bad stepper, he’s just going to have to try harder.”
Stepping evolved from the chants and dances that slaves did to remind themselves of their homelands. You can find stepping wherever you find African America Greek-lettered fraternities.
Stepping is an age-old tradition among black fraternities and sororities. It involves intricate footwork, specialized hand movements, songs and chants. But what is it really about Stepping that these college students find so compelling? This is what they’re saying:
“Dancing has always been a means of expression in African culture,” Reginald Price, a fourth-year business management and marketing student, is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, said. “Over time it has evolved into stepping.”
“A step can be created at any given time,” Price said. “A designated step master views step shows from other chapters of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and adds his own style and flair.”
“To me stepping is a way to show what your fraternity represents through both words and performance,” said Marcus Bryant, a fourth-year electrical engineering student and member of Phi Beta Sigma.
“Our steps have been passed down each year through the generations of Sigmas,” Bryant said.
“You’re creating beauty and dance out of nothing but you and your (sisters), and that’s a special thing,” says Ashanti Huey, fourth-year public relations student and member of Sigma Gamma Rho. “On the other hand, it means long nights with no sleep, sweating like crazy and losing weight from the workout.”
Davida Isaac, a third-year early childhood education student and member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority says, “When we step, we are very sharp and crisp with our movements. It sounds like one beat and looks like one movement.”
Mastering and performing this dance form is a traditional part of the initiation process in many African American sororities and fraternities, but stepping has more recently become a popular activity for children and teens.
Stepping now occurs almost everywhere. College dorms at HBCUs have teams, predominantly White fraternities and sororities may step during Greek Week. High school and youth groups step, as well as some church youth groups. Furthermore, stepping is very popular with other culturally-based fraternal organizations–Latin, Asian, and multicultural.
Whatever their ideas of the performance art, Stepping, all step team members agree that the dance unifies them and reminds them of their African roots. Because of its reliance on rhythm, it is very fascinating to watch groups of young men and women moving to a single beat in unison, a reminder of a time when all African Americans shared the same pain and heartbreak of days when they were slaves.
MyStepShow.com is a free video sharing community website that features step team performances. Members can post and share video footage of their stepteam performances. Visit [http://www.mystepshow.com] to learn more about the tradition of stepping.
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