Step is defined as “a complex synchronized dancelike performance that blends African folk traditions with popular culture” by Britannica Encyclopedia, but to the WGHS Step team, it is much more.
Senior Nia Lyles explained, “Sometimes [step] can be very aggressive, but other times, it can be motivational.”
Junior Tanys Giles, step master, described step as “a way of communicating difficult things and issues in life … in a form of dance and rhythm.”
Counselor and Coach Simone Cunningham said, “[Step] is used to express power and used to express culture and heritage… we use that as a way to honor our ancestors and what they did and how they paved the way for us, but also as a way to gather and fellowship with one another.”
This fellowship is impactful for the student dancers. Senior and captain Aysha Gray said, “I think my favorite part of step is the community that is formed within the group but also within the larger school culture as a whole. Within the group, it’s a very close knit feeling, very familial.”
Giles further elaborated on the community in stating, “ My favorite part [of being on the step team] is being able to go to … a team … and being able to know that we are all a community and knowing that I can go downstairs and be like ‘hey, I had a bad day,’ and we could all talk about it while still practicing for our performances.”
Debate surrounds the origin of this percussive dance. Some scholars say step emerged from Isicathulo or “gumboot” dancers of South African mines. Some say step emerged as a children’s game in the Congo. Others say it emerged because Kwame Nkrumah brought West African influence into his fraternity. However, all agree that step has come to a new educational field.
Step, as it exists from the 20th century onward, is a phenomenon dominated by Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO). BGLO sororities and fraternities have revolutionized step. The percussive dance has solidified itself into African American culture, as personified in filmmaker Spike Lee’s “School Daze.”
The team has performed at the Turkey Day Pep Assembly, MLK Celebration, Douglass Night, and the All-Write Festival.
As far as their performances go, Gray said, “Ya know, just expect us to show up and show out honestly.”
This is Senior Trinity Madison’s first year on ECHO staff. She now serves as Advertising / Business Manager after a year of training and contributory writing in journalism class.