Step Afrika awes Pittsburgh

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Step Afrika stomped into town Jan. 17 with a dynamic and electrifying vibe that left the Bynham Theater audience energized and in awe.

Known as the first professional company in the world dedicated to the tradition of stepping, Step Afrika has received critical acclaim for its performances. Founded in 1994 by Brian Williams, a Howard University graduate and Alpha Phi Alpha stepper, he formed the group after an inspirational from a trip to South Africa.

 

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STEP AFRIKA DANCERS

Based in Washington, D.C., Step Afrika began as a cross-cultural exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg, South Africa. The company attempts to bring an understanding of and appreciation for stepping by using the dance tradition’s that makes stepping an educational tool for young people worldwide. Step Afrika reaches tens of thousands of people around the globe each year and has performed on many stages in North and South America, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

The company has been featured on CNN, BET, PBS and NPR as well as in numerous books, documentaries and articles that explore the tradition of stepping. Step Afrika serves as a cultural ambassador for the United States, representing the nation at events around the world through special invitations from American embassies, including the annual Step Afrika International Cultural Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, a 10-year collaboration with the Soweto Dance Theatre that unites artists from around the world in dialogue and dance performances.

The company is a model for the use of stepping in educational settings, espousing teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding. Step Afrika frequently conducts residencies, master classes and in-school performances for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Washington Performing Arts Society, the Smithsonian Institution and in schools and community-based organizations around the world.

The show fuses traditional stepping with African dance moves, such as the South African gumboot dance—an art form created by South African mine-workers which greatly resembled the stepping Williams had learned and performed at college. The performers give audiences the history of stepping in a very entertaining manner. The show leaves no room for dull moments, even including an impressive tap routine soliciting audience participations. The cohesiveness of this group is as evident as its talent. The well-rounded dancers are trained in all dance genres including tap, African, ballet, jazz and modern dance.

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