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Step Afrika troupe performs at Winthrop University. Enlarge Step Afrika troupe performs at Winthrop University.
Crystal Dempsey Posted: August 27th, 2009 Crystal Dempsey

Video, photo and text by Tonya Jameson

Watching black fraternities and sororities use their bodies to create rhythms as they battle for bragging rights is regular part of college life at historically black colleges. It’s called stepping, and in the last decade it has expanded beyond the walls of black colleges.

At Winthrop University in Rock Hill recently, Step Afrika combined traditional stepping with other dance forms to entertain and educate college students.

The troupe, consisting of dancers ages 22-32, performs at venues throughout the world. The troupe pays homage to stepping in “Tribute,” but in other pieces the group incorporates West African dance, tap and other modern dance forms.

“A Step Afrika show is not exactly what you would see from a step show, but both are very, very unique and exciting,” said dancer Jakari Sherman.

The Washington-based troop, which celebrates its 15th year, travels throughout the world exposing audiences to stepping. The group also hopes to raise stepping's level of credibility among dance purists.

Step Afrika initially started on the college circuit, but in more recent years the group has performed at theaters and as part of dance festivals, Sherman said. “That’s what we’re trying to do is raise the awareness and legitimacy of the art form.”

Step Afrika doesn’t simply entertain when it performs. At Winthrop, they explained dance routines, such as one that was a tribute to the South African Gumboot dance. It resembles stepping. “We’re going to take you back to our roots,” Sherman told the audience.

During the routine, students clapped and cheered as the troupe stomped, clapped and made their roots feel like everyone’s culture.

Step Afrika will perform three shows at ImaginOn’s McColl Family Theater on Nov. 6-7. Here are details.

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