Step Afrika steps out: Stepping’s impact on MU community

In today’s world, there are many different forms of communication, from talking, texting, music and even stepping. Each form of communication connects with people on different levels in regard to meaning, culture and impact. Although with the various ways of communication, stepping is one of the few ways people are able to connect with their ancestors.

Many Step Afrika performances showcase the value and meaning behind the dance itself, in addition to the connections that are able to be made with their roots.

Stepping, or strolling, is an interactive dance style where dancers use their bodies as an instrument to create a percussive sound through the use of their feet, hands and spoken words. Step Afrika has been working to create an organization that will preserve the art of African American dance rituals and traditions.

Recently Step Afrika traveled to the Milwaukee area to perform their unique stepping routines. Performer Nyema Ray found her love for stepping as a young girl and has continued to pursue her passion through this company.

“When I auditioned for Step Afrika, I instantly felt the sense of family and community in addition to their willingness to help me grow and as a person and dancer,” Ray said. “What I found so interesting about them is that they are a professional dance company dedicated their company to the art form of stepping.”

Darrell Campbell, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, has just recently begun dedicating time to the art of strolling as he joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. in October of 2022. At various times the organization gets together and demonstrates its strolling abilities.

“Strolling is an art. It takes time. You have to be passionate, willing to step out of your comfort zone and simply have precision. Those of us who do stroll take time to perfect the craft, and it’s just a small part of being a Black Greek,” Campbell said.

Not only does strolling require focus and time, but also a deeper understanding of the art itself. Although many see stepping as a visual art, there is meaning behind the visual. With the mixture of bodily movements and spoken words, members are able to do it for recreation, competition or to connect with their ancestors.

“Strolling is a visual representation of the bond that ties members of an organization together. It shows unity, and it’s very powerful to see the chemistry that members have amongst each other,” Campbell said.

Timotheus Arrington, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has seen the ways in which strolling has not only benefitted himself but the community around him.

“It is a way of displaying our brotherhood by popping our collars and being in sync with one another. It has created deeper connections and relationships throughout my college experience, specifically by finding young men who had the desire to make a positive difference in the world and have the urge to serve our communities,” Arrington said.

Stepping has become a popular art form with its appearances in music videos, dance recitals and its spread into other cultures. As it has grown in popularity there have been many interpretations of strolling depending on the organization, but they share the deeper meaning behind it.

“Numerous other fraternities and sororities have their own renditions of strolls with their own flare and swagger to them, but regardless of the differences, it’s a way of expressing our love for our organizations and wanting to have a good time with one another,” Arrington said.

This article was written by Lauren Puthoff. She can be reached at [email protected]