Percussive dancers ‘Step Afrika!’ excite crowded audience at Ellen Eccles Theatre

Written by Charlie Schill on Sunday, January 11, 2024

LOGAN – The 2024 National Touring Season of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts kicked off with a bang – several resounding bangs, in fact – with a stylish performance by Step Afrika! on Jan.11.

The appearance by the nationally-known, all-Black percussive dance company attracted a huge, appreciative audience to the Ellen Eccles Theatre, including many family groups of people of color and young African-American students from Utah State University.

They greeted Step Afrika! with cheers, shouts and loud clapping in time to the often tribal-sounding music and enthusiastic dancing, infecting the entire audience and making the evening a truly participatory event.

CacheARTS executive director Wendi Hassan explained that Step Afrika! was presented in association with USU’s Black Student Union, praising its dancers as the world’s first stepping company and their unique blend of incredible technique, ability and pure energy.

The dancers of Step Afrika! presented a cohesive, compelling artistic experience that blended dance styles historically performed by African-American fraternities and sororities with traditional dances of West and South Africa as well as contemporary dance choreography.

In addition to a spell-binding dance show, the Step Afrika! dancers integrated songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation into their performance.

Step Afrika! is led by founder C. Brian Williams, executive director Lamar Lovelace, and artistic director Mfonsio Akpan.

On a nationwide tour from their home base in Washington, D.C., the performers of Step Afrika! were Ericka Still of St. Petersburg, FL; Ariel Dykes of Gainesville, FL; Na’imah Ray of Brooklyn, NY; Brie Turner of Lithonia, GA; Kamala Hargrove, hailing from the Bronx; Isaiah O’Connor from Miami; Robert Warnsley of Chicago; Pelham Warner, Jr. from the Bronx; Conrad R. Kelly II, a native of Fort Lauderdale, FL; Keomi Givens, hailing from Miami; and Joseph Vasquez of Guttenberg, NJ.

The program presented for the Cache Valley audience included “Tribute,” which paid homage to African-American step shows by fraternities and sororities; “Ndlamu,” a traditional Zulu dance; “Isicathulo,” the gumboot dance created by South African mine workers; “Chicago,” which found rhythms in everyday situations; and “Solo,” which investigated the art of stepping in its most intimate form.

Founded thirty years ago by Williams, Step Afrika! was the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, an art form developed by students who attended historically Black colleges and universities.

Under his direction, stepping has evolved into one of America’s cultural exports, touring to more than 50 countries across the globe. Step Afrika! also promotes stepping as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement, and cross-cultural understanding.