Out of South Africa and Black U.S.colleges and into VPAT

Written by Richard Bammer, Published January 16, 2024

By all accounts, including any number of videos, a Step Afrika! performance is a visual, aural, and theatrical dance show unlike any other — and almost certainly one that brings audiences to their feet, closing with a complex, polyrhythmic percussive “symphony.”

According to the company’s website, Step Afrika! is the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Its motto is “We step. We tour. We teach.

Founded in December 1994 as an exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg in South Africa, the company is critically-acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition’s use as an educational tool for young people worldwide. To that end, it promotes themes such as teamwork, academic achievement and understanding between cultures.

Because it tours frequently, Step Afrika! reaches thousands of people worldwide, from North and South America to Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. It serves as a cultural ambassador for the United States, representing the nation at events around the world through special invitations from American embassies. It is one of the top five African American dance companies in the United States and the largest African American-led arts organization in Washington, D.C.

As it does for many major U.S. performing arts groups, the company on Friday will conduct a master class in the Vacaville Performing Arts Theatre, where it also will perform on Saturday.

In her 1996 book “Steppin’ on the Blues,” historian Jacqui Malone explored not only the meaning of dance in Black American life but also ways in which music, song, and dance are interrelated in Black culture and, thus, their influence on American culture.