DIGTHIS: STEP AFRIKA! RETURNS TO BOSTON WITH DRUMFOLK
The show is the “result of over 29 years of intensive research and investigation into the history of stepping”
By Dig Staff, DigBoston
September 6th, 2022
It’s been four years since ArtsEmerson hosted Step Afrika!, whose performers “recreate histories too often left in the margins, and achieve a musical and movement-filled celebration of the human spirit.” Their last show to come through town, The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, mesmerized in 2018, and we’re telling you about their upcoming spectacle, which comes to the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre from Oct. 5 – 22, way ahead of time because these tickets will go quickly. Especially since Step Afrika! had to cancel their last planned event here in 2020.
“Drumfolk,” the group explains, “is inspired by The Stono Rebellion of 1739, an uprising initiated by 20 enslaved Africans who used their drums to start a revolt in South Carolina. The rebellion was suppressed, and the Negro Act of 1740 took away the rights to assemble, read and use drums from the African people.” In telling this story, “the production takes audiences on a journey from the then-colony of South Carolina in the 17th century to the present-day, where the instrument has shaped new art forms like hip hop and African American social dance. Drumfolk is a percussive celebration of American history, placing a spotlight on the rhythmic cycle of life that bonds all of us together.
“I am extremely excited to bring Drumfolk to the people of Boston,” says Step Afrika! Founder and Executive Producer C. Brian Williams. In June, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced Williams as a 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipient, marking “the first time that the tradition of stepping has been fully recognized as a part of America’s artistic heritage and culture.” The executive producer continued, “Drumfolk is the result of over 29 years of intensive research and investigation into the history of stepping, an art form first created by African American fraternities and sororities. And the critically-acclaimed dancers of Step Afrika! are truly the best in the world at stepping.”
“We are thrilled to welcome back Step Afrika! to ArtsEmerson for a third time with their invigorating new show, Drumfolk,” ArtsEmerson Executive Director David C. Howse added. “I continue to be amazed at the brilliance of the company’s ability to tell the important story of the Stono Rebellion with such verve and power. Drumfolk is definitely a show that you feel in your heart, mind and body. Both this show and their return to Boston, long delayed by the pandemic, is a testament to the power of art and persistence.”
As part of its programming around Drumfolk, ArtsEmerson will also host a public conversation on Sept. 20 at 7pm at the Emerson Paramount Center on the Robert J. Orchard Stage.
“The event will also be livestreamed and available to watch online,” according to the theater. “Throughout history, denying access to objects and areas of cultural significance is a hallmark tactic of control and oppression. Drumfolk tells the story of the resilience of enslaved Africans in the wake of the Stono rebellion and subsequent Negro Act, banning Africans in America from using the drum. In this first installation of the Public Dialogue Series, ArtsEmerson Executive Director David C. Howse will be joined by specialists from a wide array of arts and culture practices to explore how communities have rebelled and reclaimed what is theirs in the face of subjugation.”