The Story of Step Afrika!
Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Under Mr. Williams’ leadership, stepping has evolved into one of America’s cultural exports, touring more than 60 countries across the globe and ranking as one of the top 10 African American Dance Companies in the US.
Step Afrika! blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities; traditional African dances; and an array of contemporary dance and art forms into a cohesive, compelling artistic experience. Performances are much more than dance shows; they integrate songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation. The blend of technique, agility, and pure energy makes each performance unique and leaves the audience with their hearts pounding.
Step Afrika! promotes stepping as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement, and cross-cultural understanding. The Company reaches tens of thousands of Americans each year through a 50-city tour of colleges and theaters and performs globally as Washington, DC’s one and only Cultural Ambassador.
Step Afrika! has earned Mayor’s Arts Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Arts Education, Innovation in the Arts, Excellence in an Artistic Discipline, and was inducted into the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) Hall of Fame, the first Dance Company to earn this honor. Step Afrika! headlined President Barack Obama’s Black History Month Reception and performed at the first-ever Juneteenth Celebration at the White House. The company is featured prominently at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture with the world’s first interactive stepping exhibit.
Step Afrika!’s mission is to preserve, expand and promote an appreciation for stepping through professional performances and to educate, motivate and inspire young people in and out of school through arts education programs that emphasize teamwork, commitment, and discipline.
As one of the most celebrated African American dance companies in the world, Step Afrika! fortifies our relationships in the communities we serve and highlights our mission to preserve and promote the tradition of stepping. It is our vision to expand programmatic efforts to reach larger audiences.
10 Things to Know About Step Afrika!
- Founded in 1994, as an exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg, Step Afrika! is the first professional Dance Company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping.
- Step Afrika! is one of the top 10 African American dance companies in the United States, the largest African American-led arts organization in Washington, DC, and Washington, DC’s only cultural ambassador.
- Step Afrika! has 17 full-time dancers—all college graduates—many who attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and are members of Historically Black Greek Fraternities and Sororities.
- The Company reaches tens of thousands each year through a 50-city tour of American colleges and theaters and performs globally as an official U.S. Cultural Ambassador.
- Step Afrika! engages 50,000 college students across the nation, and teaches teamwork and discipline to 100 kids as part of the Summer Steps with Step Afrika! summer camp, and expands culture-based arts education for more than 20,000 Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia school students each year.
- As part of the world’s first interactive stepping exhibit, thousands experience Step Afrika! at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture each day as part of the museum’s Explore More! interactive gallery.
- In 2021, Step Afrika! entered into a three-year partnership with Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater which provides elevated design support, rehearsal space, and dramaturgical and artistic support for the company in our home of Washington, DC.
- Step Afrika! Founder C. Brian Williams was named a 2022 National Heritage Fellow and is featured in Roots of American Culture: A Cross-Country Visit with Living Treasures of the Folk and Traditional Arts (2022).
- Step Afrika!’s most recent international tours have promoted cultural dialogue and exchange in Jordan (2018), Ghana (2018), Croatia (2019), Ukraine (2019), Zambia (2019), Angola (2019), South Africa (2019), Dubai (2020), Poland (2022), Slovenia (2022), Bolivia (2022), and Kuwait (2023).
- In 2023, Step Afrika! was inducted into the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) Hall of Fame, the first Dance Company to earn this honor.
Step Afrika!’s Annual Report, FY21 – FY22
“As we look back on 2021 and 2022, I am so proud of our performers, staff, and supporters for their dedication to making our work have a greater lasting impact. Our ability to advocate for access and equity to the arts during times of crisis has been paramount to Step Afrika! navigating through a global pandemic. We resiliently emerged from the pandemic stronger and energized to create new virtual pathways that preserve the art of traditional stepping, while reinforcing existing avenues that amplify our cultural voice and connection to the community.” – C Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Producer