Stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African American college students. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.
Though stepping is traditionally aligned with college fraternities, the art form is universal and highly appealing to young people. Today, stepping can be found in high, middle and elementary schools across the US as well as in churches and community-based organizations. The form is also spreading its wings to new venues and participants, such as Latino and Asian American Greek-letter organizations.
Stepping is without question a rising art form and an important part of America’s artistic and cultural heritage. As stated by historian Jacqui Malone and author of “Steppin’ on the Blues”, stepping is “one of the most exciting dance forms to evolve in the twentieth century.”
Fine, Elizabeth. Soulstepping: African American Step Shows.
Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
Malone, Jacqui. Steppin on the Blues. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996
NPR feature story on Step Afrika, including the history and sounds of stepping.