The spectacular dance company performers of Step Afrika! return to Northeast State Community College on Feb. 8 for a night of traditional African step dancing.
The free performance begins at 7 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts at the main campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
One of the most thrilling and best-received performance groups ever at Northeast State, Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams. Step Afrika ranks as the only professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The company is critically acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the tradition’s use as an educational tool worldwide.
While in traveling to southern Africa, Williams came across the South African gumboot dance — an art form created by mineworkers which greatly resembled the stepping he had learned at Howard University. He later met three members of the Soweto Dance Theatre. Together, they created the Step Afrika! International Cultural Festival the first known attempt to link the people who practice stepping in America with Gumboot dance performers in Africa.
The first festival was held in 1994, just six months after the election of Nelson Mandela as president of a free and Democratic Republic of South Africa. Two years later they launched Step Afrika!’s first program in the USA.
Stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African-American college students practiced by historically African-American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities using movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.
Step Afrika! reaches tens of thousands of Americans each year and has performed on prestigious stages in North & South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
The production is part of Northeast State’s commemoration of Black History Month throughout February. The performance is free and open to the public. For more information, contact 423.279.7669 or jpkelly@NortheastState.edu.