A lot of this blog focuses on ballet. It’s what I take most often (3 days a week… when I’m healthy, which I haven’t been…. but I digress) and what I teach. But…. I do other kinds of dance, too. The dance company I’m in is more of a mish-mash of styles depending on the type of show we’re doing (the dance company is part of a larger performing arts company, so we do a lot of variety shows, some contemporary, others have a vaudeville theme). The finale we do for our showcases is generally a percussive piece.
So… when I got a chance to see Step Afrika! you better believe I got a ticket and headed down to watch what professional percussive dance looks like. And, ohmywow, was it amazing! Incredible, incredible energy! A symphony of foot stomping, clapping, vocalization, punctuated with some impressive body movements! The best word I can think of is: “mesmerizing.”
They showed different kinds of stepping, which all had common threads, but were unique in their presentation. The first style was fraternity/sorority stepping, the kind popularized in African American Greek organizations. And I think it was the style that Step Afrika’s founder started with as a fraternity member. High energy. Loud. Powerful.
From there they went into South African gumboot dancing, which was a similar style attributed to the South African miners who used their galoshes to make cool beats, not only by stomping, but by hitting the top of the boots.
After that section they brought up audience members to try stepping. I would’ve loved to have gone up, but the fact that I was doing all I could to not cough continuously coupled with the large number of youngsters in the audience caused me to keep my hands in my lap! There were some adorable kids that went up there (a few adults, too).
There was only one guy up there. Brave soul. The cast member who was leading the group was teaching them to respond “YES!” after he bellowed, “Brothers and sisters!”
From there he went into, “Sisters!” to which there was a large chorus of “YES!”
Instead of hearing one lone yes from the token dude you hear one rather loud little girl yell, “NO!” Hahahaha.
After that section the people who did the audience participation were brought upstage to sit on the floor. Some large African drums (and a snare drum) were brought onto the stage and we were treated to some rather impressive drumming by one, then two cast members. And then… oh then…
A male cast member leapt from the wings dressed in traditional Zulu attire. He performed an incredible solo. All I can say is that this guy must have a strong ballet background. He just must. His pirouettes in attitude were so strong and controlled. And he did this penchée arabesque at one point that was so dramatic… I just stared at his leg and thought, “Is he? Is he? Oh, yup, there it goes…” 180 degree extension. Holyyyyy…. gah. I want to be able to dance like that. Then the rest of the dancers came out and did a Zulu dance which was, again, mesmerizing. The drumming, the spinning, the whistle blasts… it totally transported me out of the auditorium and to a new place. A very cool new place that I wanted to hang out in more.
After the Zulu dance one of the male cast members came out and after doing a step solo led the audience in some attempts at rhythmic clapping. Which was at times impressive and at times just… eek. We needed some more practice. Then the rest of the cast came out for the finale.
It wasn’t just their dancing that was impressive, but each section of the show had a theatrical element to it (they really did tell a story with each piece) and each cast member connected to the audience. It didn’t feel like I was just watching a show, it felt like I was part of the show. Amazing. I wish they’d been doing master classes in the area because I would have loved to have attended one.
It was so, so cool. If you get a chance to see them, please do. It’s better than coffee!