Step Afrika! celebrates 30 years with a rhythmic homage to history and culture

Segment by Shawn Robinson, Aired Monday, February 5th 2024

SCHENECTADY, NY (WRGB) — Step Afrika!, the first professional stepping company, left the Capital Region audience floored with their latest performance, blending rhythmic precision with cultural celebration. Intricate footwork and powerful chants showcased the rich history of stepping.

The performance featured a dynamic fusion of traditional African dance, percussive beats, and modern influence highlighting the company’s commitment to promoting stepping as an educational tool. Through different arts education programs, the emphasize is placed on teamwork, commitment and discipline.

“It’s been pretty full circle, for me to be able to do something within my culture, within in one of my favorite styles and for the company to actually teach me… the information of knowing the style that we are doing and portraying is something that actually deprived from our people, and was made here in America, by African Americans, through many different struggles and historic events.

Special Projects Producer Shawn Robinson with Step Afrika! performers Pelham Warner (left) and Na’imah Ray (right). (WRGB/Shawn Robinson)

With each step, performers integrated songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation. This, displaying a sense of unity, resilience and pride.

I think one of the biggest goals is the interaction, the community feel that stepping, literally, brings to a room. So, I think that’s one of the first steps we try to make sure the audience understands, is that you’re going to be a part of this experience,” Pelham Warner tells CBS 6.

Na’imah Ray is one of 18 full-time performances and says the influence is everything:

“We are able to mesh so many art forms together. We’re able to shine light on the African diaspora in so many ways. We’re able to bring our roots from South Africa here, to the United States, and share the South African gumboot dance. We’re able to share West and South African dance. Indlamu, which is most commonly known as Zulu, a Zulu warrior dance. We’re able to share that, day in and day out,” said Ray.

This year, celebrating their 30th anniversary – Step Afrika! is one of the top 10 African American dance companies in the United State and the first dance company to be inducted into the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA).