Rhythm and the Beats: Step Afrika Entrances Sold-Out Crowd

Kat Kollitides

On the nights of March 25 and 26, sensuous, rhythmic beats poured out of the Palace Theatre as the world-renowned dance troupe Step Afrika took center stage for two sold-out shows. The troupe, which spe­cializes in a percussive dance form known as stepping, dazzled the packed audience with their sizzling moves and intimate performances.

Choreographed and led by Step Afrika artistic director Jakari Sherman, the show fea­tured ten dancers who traced the history of stepping via orig­inal dance acts, many featuring spoken word performances and intricate costumes. A voiceover narration at the start of the per­formance explained that stepping began in the pledge classes of black fraternities in the 1990s. Stepping served as a way for new fraternity members to connect back to his­torically African forms of movement, words and sounds which communicated fidelity and allegiance. The troupe then performed a funny and entertaining dance and spoken word skit to illustrate what it was like to be a “pledge” in Greek life. That act was fol­lowed by the chance for audience participa­tion, as the performers engaged in a male against female dance-off. The audience was asked to cheer the loudest for the group which performed best, the results of which ended in a dead tie.

The concluding dance numbers brought the audience back to Africa. All of the dancers were beautifully adorned in tradi­tional African dress, while two members of the troupe performed crowd-pleasing drum solos. The evening ended with a standing ovation from audience members, who rev­eled in the night’s intense, rhythmic beauty and cultural distinctiveness.