The acclaimed troupe Step Afrika marks its 20th Anniversary at Howard.
By Patrick D. McCoy
After touring around the world, including stops in South Africa and more recently Croatia, Step Afrika marked its 20th anniversary at Howard University with its “Home Performance Series.” The performance featured a variety of combinations that made for an exciting reflection on the troupe’s journey home to Howard. Whether it was a solo dancer bathed in the spotlight or the full complement of the company, each movement spoke to a certain emotion to be conveyed.
“I can’t believe we are looking at 20 years,” said Step Afrika founder C. Brian Williams. “I remember coming up with a semblance of an idea to offer the culture I lived, loved to my local community – and here we are now, 40+ countries, 100,000 audience members and 200,000 young students later.”
Witnessing the tradition of stepping infused with the interpolation of African drumming and costumes that hearkened to the richness of the African diaspora made for a uniquely beautiful and moving experience. Solo drummer Abdou Muhammad’s beat precision brought down the house as he moved down the aisle of Howard University’s Aldridge Theater.
Beyond simply a dance presentation, it is important to note Step Afrika’s commitment to social justice. Several slideshows were projected throughout the performance, and one of the evening’s most poignant moments was the presentation of images of the racial discord underscoring the dialogue in the U.S.
While many performers and presenters continue with business as usual, Step Afrika is one of the first in mainstream DC performance troupes to address the racial issues head on. As the images of racially-divided Baltimore flashed on the screen alongside the choreography, there were undeniable sighs from the audience.
In contrast, the presentation culminated in images of success, unity and other vignettes that left those assembled with a spirit of hopefulness. The moving traditional spirituals sung by guest vocalists Sherice Payne, Krislynn Perry and Thomas Wright, Jr. furthered the uplifting spirit of the presentation.
How gratifying it was to experience Step Afrika on the home front before a packed appreciative audience. One of the remarkable occurrences of the evening was the introduction of the #Croboyz, a group of talented D.C. public school students that participated with the group in cultural exchanges in Croatia. From Madagascar to Morocco, the impact of this exciting group steps beyond all boundaries.
After earning degrees in music from Virginia State University and Shenandoah University, Patrick D. McCoy has contributed arts pieces to CBS Washington and The Afro-American Newspaper, among others. He also writes the magazine’s monthly performing arts column “Perfect Pitch.” McCoy may be reached via email at email@example.com and on Twitter @PatrickDMcCoy.