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Bold feet: Step Afrika returns with fancy footwork

Step right up!: Members of Step Afrika will perform traditional and contemporary forms of step dance at Kumble Theater on April 28.
Brooklyn Paper
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They’re stepping back into Brooklyn.

One of the country’s largest African-American dance troupes will return to the County of Kings next weekend, clapping and stomping across the stage of the Kumble Theater in Brooklyn’s Downtown. Step Afrika will perform traditional step moves at two shows on April 28, closing out Brooklyn College’s season at the theater, and its founder says the performers are looking forward to the crowds the borough always brings out.

“We’re glad to be part of the Brooklyn College tour for the third year,” said C. Brian Williams. “We love coming to Brooklyn and the energy here. Our dancers especially find that when we get there, we’re looking forward giving a great performance.”

Stepping is a form of dance that involves using foot dances, chants, and hand-clapping, usually performed with fast-paced, upbeat music in the background. It was created in the early 1900s, among the fraternities and sororities of historically black colleges and universities, but was little known off-campus until Spike Lee’s 1988 film “School Daze” brought the culture of stepping to a broader audience.

“Spike Lee changed the game,” said Williams. “After his movie, stepping was done in high schools, elementary schools, and the broader black community — and this was something that was only being done by fraternities and sororities.”

At the shows on April 28, the team will perform a portion of “The Migration,” a dance-theater piece celebrating the movement of African Americans out of the American South during the early years of the 20th century. The dance has evolved a lot over the years, said Williams, and for this show the company took inspiration from early folkloric styles of dance.

“We’re going to be celebrating the African American response to our arrival in the country and what we created,” said Williams. “We’re always pay homage to stepping and its intent, and we’ve taken that and expanded greatly upon it. The men have a style and women have a style, in Step Afrika we bring all these styles together and that transforms the art form because we’re not trying to represent it in one form.”

The show gives people a chance to learn more about step dancing in traditional and contemporary form — and to join in, said Williams.

“It’s a highly interactive show, and it’s for fans and people of all ages to come and make music,” he said.

Step Afrika at Kumble Theater [1 University Plaza, at Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 488–1624, www.brooklyncenter.org]. April 28 at 3 pm and 8 pm. $35.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:45 pm, July 9, 2018
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