D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Stepping Masters Take Center Court at ‘Step Xplosion’

Step Afrika! Tantalizing in Premiere of New Work, 'Drumfolk'

If you were unable to get to the Music Center at Strathmore last Sunday afternoon, you missed a real treat as D.C.’s own Step Afrika! showcased an excerpt of their newest piece, “Drumfolk.”

We were left wanting more – wanting to see the entire piece – as the dancers and drummers recreated a scene of rebellion and a fight for justice that undoubtedly occurred time and time again by our African ancestors in their painful quest for freedom.

Step Afrika! founder and executive director D. Brian Williams has much to be proud of as his troupe celebrates its 25th anniversary, taking their place in history as the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping – a polyrhythmic, percussive dance form that uses the body as an instrument.

Step Afrika! presents Step Xplosion at the Music Center in Strathmore in North Bethesda on Jan. 12. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Step Afrika! presents Step Xplosion at the Music Center in Strathmore in North Bethesda on Jan. 12. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

He says that as they start their national tour for 2020, they’ll be performing the complete work, “Drumfolk” – from college campuses to off-Broadway venues. But, they’ll be returning to the DMV for performances later this summer at UDC Theater of the Arts at Van Ness (June 19-21) and Montgomery College in Rockville (July 8-12). So, you’ll still be able to get your “stepping fix” if you’re in need.

Meanwhile, the Sunday afternoon show also highlighted the relationship that Step Afrika! and the Strathmore continue to foster with local youth – perhaps the best part of the program.

Far too often, we hear about our children, especially children of color, as if they were criminals in training, lost souls and lost causes. But the youth and young adults who took to the stage were, as Williams said, “superior steppers and scholars.” And they lived up to the hype.

Special guests included: The Paint Branch Eclectic Steppers, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., HYPE Queens, Cook Hall Step Team (that’s right, HU . . . U Know!) and Dem Raider Boyz Step Squad.

Each of the youth step teams brought their own energy and interpretative skills to the stage with a series of high-kicks, flips, twirls, synchronized movements and exuberance that was a real delight to watch.

“Step Xplosion” was a celebration of the stepping tradition brought in pieces from the Motherland, then reassembled, refurnished and tweaked when the drums were taken away from Africans.

But on this day, during this performance, the drums never stopped and the dancers never paused. Not until the very last downbeat.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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