Stepping troupe to perform percussive dance at Strings today
March 18, 2011
Steamboat Springs — Step into a new kind of community, one made of energetic and precise dance movements, chanting, tapping and clapping.
The art of stepping, a percussive hip-hop dance form born in African-American fraternities and sororities in the South, is one that breeds inclusion and camaraderie, said Jakari Sherman, the artistic director for the international touring dance troupe Step Afrika.
"It's all about the exchange of the energy," Sherman said about stepping. "That's an integral part of it. We'll even bring people up on stage with us to dance and step with us. It's very important people understand that spirit of community because it's that spirit that … has encouraged the development of stepping as an art form."
Step Afrika, a dance company solely dedicated to stepping, will perform tonight at Strings Music Pavilion. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $40 for adults and $25 for children. They are available by calling 970-879-5056 or visiting http://www.stringsmusicfestival.com.
Betse Grassby, Strings operations and nonclassical program director, said the Step Afrika show appeals to a common passion in Steamboat Springs: the passion for dance.
"There is such a long tradition here with the annual dance concert and so many talented local performers, including an avid group of African dancers and drummers," Grassby said. "This is the finest group of this kind in our country, and we are pleased that we have the opportunity to present them as a part of our first winter series."
The Steamboat show is just one of more than 150 dates the group plays around the world.
The group has been featured on PBS, NPR and ABC and has traveled from Vietnam to Vancouver, British Columbia.
When they're not on the road, the troupe works with 50,000 Washington, D.C.-area students in outreach programs at local schools. Sherman said without fail, a child will leave one of their sessions clapping, dancing and stepping to their own beat.
"It gives us an opportunity to connect with them on a closer level," Sherman said. "To be able to sit with a child and work with a child for an hour, it's extremely enriching to be able to impart something you love so much to a child and have them receive that."
The eight dancers traveling to Steamboat this weekend come from a variety of backgrounds and colleges. Many are classically trained in tap, jazz or African dance, and many started stepping on high school and college-level competition teams.
And they have a passion for music, as well.
For Sherman, it was the percussiveness — the foot stomping, clapping and snapping that provides the stepping beat — that drew him in.
"As much as it is dance, it's about making music," he said.
It's also a vocal and social experience, with call-and-response chants encouraging participation from the audience.
"We create an instant community, and we encourage people to become a part of that community, even if it's just for an hour and a half," Sherman said.
— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@SteamboatToday.com
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