Anyone who has been to the Strathmore will tell you that it is the perfect place to hear anything. The acoustics and intimate setting (no matter how large the crowd is) always make for a stellar show, but on Sunday afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing and hearing Step Xplosion, an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the tradition of step.
This event was sponsored by Step Afrika! which is the world’s first professional step company. Like the teams that were invited to perform at this event, Step Afrika! promotes virtues such as teamwork and discipline and engages with the community through step, a percussive dance made popular by several HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
Step Xplosion wasn’t a competition, and thank goodness, because it would have been very difficult to pick a winner! The Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha (whose notable members include C. Brian Williams, the founder of Step Afrika! and Dr. King himself) was energetic and incredibly loud and expressive. Howard University’s QuaDrew and Eleanor Roosevelt High School’s Dem Raider Boyz showed off impressive comedic acting skills and complex formations.
The gorgeous athleticism of Crimson Inferno, comprised of Delta Sigma Theta sisters from New York, could not be matched by any step team I’ve ever seen. When I think of step, though, the first thing that comes to mind is attitude. K.A.O.S.S. (Kids Always on the Same Step) was full of teen divas whipping their hair around before crushing their solos, which earned many a “Yassss!” and “Y’all better work!” And the Herndon High School Step Team combined the exuberance of Glee’s New Directions with infectious confidence and bravado; they were the first team to receive a standing ovation.
The most memorable and touching piece was a bit of a surprise to the audience, and featured the Step Afrika! team with 4 mind-blowing gospel singers. The dancers accompanied the singers for hymns such as “Let’s Break Bread Together” and “Wade in the Water.” The combination of earnest performances from people at the top of their game was almost too much. I nearly became emotional as I stood there in awe of the uniquely beautiful gift that Dr. King’s dream and Mr. Williams’ talent had given to everyone in the Music Center.
I’m also glad that the teams weren’t competing because that would have distracted from the original purpose of the event, which is to edify and unify a broad variety of people. It was a joy to see artists and enthusiasts of many different colors and ages come together to have a good time and honor a great man. I know where I will be for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend next year!
Follow the team or the venue on Twitter: @StepAfrikaHQ and @Strathmore