What is Stepping?

Stepping is a rising art form and an important part of America’s artistic and cultural heritage. In stepping, the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and the spoken word.

Origin of Stepping

History of SteppingStepping developed out of a rich tradition in African-based communities that use movement, words and sounds to communicate allegiance to a group.  Although a distinct art form, stepping maintains striking similarities to African genres of movement such as the Gumboot – a performance style originally conceived by miners in South Africa as an alternative to drumming, which was banned by authorities.

The stepping tradition in the United States grew out of song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the early 1900’s.

Stepping Today

Off the TrainIn addition to step shows and competitions on college campuses, today stepping can also be found in schools, churches and community organizations around the country. The form is also spreading its wings to new venues and participants, such as Latino and Asian American Greek-letter organizations.

Step Afrika!, as the first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, is evolving the dance form to include other styles, such as Tap, Modern and Hip Hop, and introducing stepping to new audiences around the world.

Learn More About Stepping

  • Stepping has been highlighted in motion pictures such as Stomp The Yard, School Daze, Mac and Me, Drumline, and How She Move.
  • Historian Jacqui Malone calls stepping “one of the most exciting dance forms to evolve in the Twentieth Century” in Steppin’ on the Blues, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
  • Elizabeth Fine details the tradition of stepping in Soulstepping: African American Step Shows. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2003.