root's new focus will be taking you home to Africa! We'll be talking all about West African and Sub-Saharan dance and music; the energy, traditions, and rising popularity.
In anticipation of this feature we bring you the Xtra Dance this month:
A unique and energetic African American form of dance.... the group StepAfrika from Washington, D.C. states:
Stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African American college students. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.
A review by Michael Sutton of the book Soulstepping: African American Step Shows by Elizabeth Fine states:
Contrary to popular opinion, the contemporary method of stepping is really a hybrid of both African and African American music and dance. Such an amalgam occurred as a result of African and African American dancers exchanging dance movements. While the author clearly implies that some stepping patterns may have been conscious adoptions of African dance patterns, it is more likely that the first immigrants and slaves modified them upon their arrival in the United States. ......the percussive dominance where the stepper throws down a sharply percussive rhythm with the feet while the hands beat out a counter rhythm and the head enunciates another beat is one obvious characteristic present during step shows. ....... Such a routine has its origins in northern Zaire, Sudan, Zambia and Mozambique while the familiar "get down" position commonly observed when steppers often begin and end a step by bending deeply from the waist can be traced to many Central and West African cultures.
read the full article here.
Listen to the sounds of Stepping from NPR online...