Stepping out

Step Afrika delighted audiences at Marietta College Sunday

DOUG LOYER Special to the Times Step Afrika entertained and encouraged audience participation when they brought their step dancing show to Marietta College.

An eye-catching, toe-tapping, hand-clapping, attention-getting performance by Step Afrika, a professional dance company from Washington D.C., was performed Sunday at The Gathering Place on the campus of Marietta College.

The 75-minute high-energy, high-impact and totally free performance not only entertained, it helped educate the audience about stepping and the South African culture.

Every year, Step Afrika performs in 10 countries for more than 50,000 people and touches 23,000 youth through its performances and arts education programs.

“We are super excited to be here in Marietta,” expressed Mfon Akpan, Step Afrika Artistic Director. “We love to share our culture and share the preservation and advancement of stepping and also like to share its origin.”

Step Afrika’s mission is to promote an appreciation for stepping and its use as an educational, motivational and healthy tool for young people. They have been successful with that mission through arts education activities, cultural exchange programs and performances worldwide. Over the past 23 years, Step Afrika has grown to become one of the top 10 African American Dance Companies in the country and is also Washington D.C.’s largest African American arts organization.

Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities. The art form of stepping is an important part of America’s cultural and artistic heritage. Stepping uses the body as an instrument to create sounds and rhythms by using a combination of footsteps, claps and the vocal sounds.

Akpan explained that Sunday they had seven performers, but have 16 dancers total. The other half of our their group is also out doing shows. They get to travel and see all parts of the United States.

“We’ve been to South Africa and most recently, Jordan,” said Akpan. “Being able to experience different cultures and exchange energy and ideas is really important because it helps bring communities together.”

“This is absolutely fantastic,” commented Marietta College President William Rudd, “It brings a whole new form of entertainment to Marietta College. It also gave us chance to show off our new sound system here at The Gathering Place.”

Helping to organize the event was Katie Simms, Assistant Director of Fourth Street Housing which is part of the division of Student Life at Marietta College.

“We went to a conference in the fall and Step Afrika really impressed us there,” said Simms. “We wanted to bring them here. They are not only entertaining, they are educational and that was my main goal.”

Simms explained that Step Afrika builds different pieces into their entertaining act to educate people know about the culture of South Africa.

“I can’t say enough about the performance. I cried, it was that good,” admitted Donna Briggs of Parkersburg. “Phenomenal talent, each individual person has such a great personality. They were funny, they were serious… they were really, really good.”

Pat Lang, of Marietta, commented that he really enjoyed the show and was impressed with how talented the performers were.

“I thought the performance was absolutely wonderful,” added Michelle Wilson of Athens. “A national caliber performance here in Marietta, it’s wonderful. I wasn’t really sure what to expect today, but it was fantastic.”