Black people are routinely pegged as the preeminent dancers on the planet, for their incredible rhythmical skills are constantly on display through film, television and well, this.
Movies such as Save the Last Dance illustrate this point, as a naive white girl finds the dancing ability of Black people to the push she needs to excel at ballet.
Dancing though, as historically known in the Western tradition, is of little to no use to Black people and they find acceptable dancing constricting and unacceptable to their cultural norms. Black people excel in originality when it comes to dancing and have created a form of dancing that’s authentically Black – stepping:
Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations. Stepping may also draw from elements of gymnastics, tap dance, march, or African and Caribbean dance, or include semi-dangerous stunts as a part of individual routines. Some forms of stepping include the use of props, such as canes, rhythm sticks and/or fire and blindfolds. The tradition of African American stepping is rooted within the competitive schoolyard song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the mid-1900s.
If you have attended a major university that has even 10 Black people enrolled there, then chances are you have been regaled with a “step-show” before. Black people, especially Black fraternities, partake in stepping as a ritualistic exercise that has roots in Africa.
The uniformity displayed by step-team members in the choreographed clapping, stepping and dancing routine is a sight to behold and chanting that takes the form of ululations is but an added bonus in any stepping display.
But the cross-over appeal of stepping is an unavoidable reality that must know be discussed, for films such as Stomp the Yard and the MTV show America’s Best Dance Crew have broadcast a formerly all-Black activity to the entire country, which have had the destabilizing effect of integrating the team dance activity.
Remember: anything that is all-white must be integrated, yet anything that is all-Black must be preserved in an all-out effort to maintain the street cred of that activity. Daring to integrate an all-Black activity is an exercise in futility, yet daring to integrate is an endeavor that is greeted with congratulatory and laudatory language.
Stepping is a Black thing, an opportunity to “keep it real” and is an authentically Black exercise in dancing that no white person would dare emulate until now:
Stepping, which is deeply rooted in the tradition of historically Black Fraternities, has moved into the mainstream. At the Sprite Step Off, a traditionally white sorority with all white members, Zeta Tau Alpha won the $100,000 prize. Bossip was in the audience and they agreed that Zeta Tau Alpha “brought it.” This can be considered of another example of how Black culture becomes mainstream and becomes appropriated by Caucasian people and becomes a greater part of American culture as a whole.
This upset victory by white girls daring to integrate an all-Black activity has sent shock waves through the stepping community everywhere:
On Saturday, I accompanied AG Entertainment’s Alex Gidewon to the Sprite Step Off Challenge at the Civic Center. The best part of the evening for me was the car ride there and back. We pulled up to the Civic Center in a CL65 AMG with a turbocharged V12 engine that reached top speeds in 6 seconds. The car took my breath away. All I can say is I want one! Anyway, step show host Ryan Cameron (WVEE) said “Steppin’ is for erybody.” Well, it’s not for me. I was bored out of my skull for the 50+ minutes that we were there. Back in my college days, steppin’ was an entirely different art form than what you see today. Now it’s more lights, cameras and action than fancy footwork mixed with military precision. So is it any wonder that an all white girl crew from Arkansas took 1st place in the majority black competition? The women from Zeta Tau Alpha’s Epsilon chapter electrified the crowd with a dazzling step routine that clocked in at just under 9 minutes. They won cash scholarships and other prizes. MTV2 will air the step show at 3 pm on February 28 and March 7.
Stepping, an authentically Black activity that once was reserved for only Black people to practice discipline in rhythmic movement, while simultaneously clapping their hands in unison, has now been infiltrated to a point where a team of white girls from Arkansas could usurp the Sprite Step-Off Challenge 2010 title and supplant all Black teams beneath perfectly choreographed routine.
This loss is being taken hard by Black people and stepping-purists everywhere, as step-hardliners view this as a direct assault against their authentically African tradition.
Stuff Black People Don’t Like includes being out-stepped, for there is absolutely nothing sacred anymore if a bunch of white girls from Arkansas can out-step Black people and claim the Sprite Step-Off Challenge.
Stepping has been integrated, which makes its no longer indigenous to the Black community and no longer an activity that can be deemed exclusively and authentically Black. Stepping has been polluted with the stain of whiteness and can no longer be deemed a “keeping it real” activity, although it did offer an interesting, intimate look at Black culture when it was an 100 percent Black enterprise.