The ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance’s MainStage was filled to capacity last Saturday night for the seventh annual Steady Steppin’ Forward step competition, which was hosted by Sankofa, the College’s own step team.
This year, step teams from seven schools competed, including SUNY New Paltz’s Shades, MCLA’s Nexxus, Siena’s S.O.L.I.D., Stony Brook’s Cadence, SUNY Albany’s Organized C.H.A.O.S. and Tufts’ BlackOut. The emcees, Alex Deaderick ’15 and Tirhakah Love ’15, engaged in thoroughly entertaining and oftentimes self-deprecating humor, keeping the crowd amused with an assortment of jokes and flashy dance moves in between performances.
Step is an integrative art form in which the dancers’ bodies are used as loud, percussive instruments. Step dancing engages the audience in vibrant, interactive performances that tie the genre’s African roots in with contemporary hip-hop and dance music. Amusing plotlines and spoken word are often thrown into the mix, making for a fun, crowd-pleasing show.
On Saturday evening, as is tradition, the show opened with Sankofa taking the stage to enthusiastic applause. The team’s name roughly translates from the language of the Akan people of Ghana to “reaching back to move forward.” The men of Sankofa opened the dance, immediately engaging the crowd with their meticulous movements and sticking the landings of several difficult moves. The ladies took the stage next, proving that their troupe was every bit as talented as the men’s team.
Shades, the all-female group from SUNY New Paltz, began its routine as silhouettes, led on to the stage by a ringleader in rigid formation on a dark stage with a brightly-lit backdrop. Complete with military jackets and army boots, these ladies battled it out. The group marched about the stage in its marching band regalia, replacing the beat of the snare drums with the coordinated stomping and handclaps of the group. The ladies mixed a prototypical step routine with spicy dance moves that proved just how talented the group was. At the end of the spectacle, the drum major humorously marched the girls off stage with rhythmic hip thrusts and baton twirling.
Next up was SUNY Albany’s Organized C.H.A.O.S. Though a comparatively smaller group, they managed to put on a raunchy and humorous performance, engaging in an interactive back-and-forth with the crowd: “We make the other steppers sweat,” they mocked. The members of Organized C.H.A.O.S. brought their personalities to the forefront, giving the audience a tutorial on what truly constitutes stepping and backing their claims up with precise and expert examples. Throwing witty jokes in between their impressively precise moves, the dancers got the crowd chanting, and the all-male steppers stirred up quite a fuss among female viewers.
Siena’s S.O.L.I.D. marched on stage wearing boots, neon tutus and tights. The all-girl step team stomped up a storm to the sound of Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” in a sexy and feminine routine. The team stuck to a fairly simple formation for most of the performance before breaking into more flirty dances and letting its substantial girl power shine.
Blackout, the steppers from Tufts and reigning Steady Steppin’ Forward champions, took the stage in sharp black suits and white suspenders. The formal attire accentuated the quality of the steppers, as the team assumed the stage with a professional presence and backed it up with difficult, skillful moves. The talented group had the audience applauding from the beginning, alternating exciting step routines with hilarious dialogue between group members. In one particularly funny skit, two group members racked up the laughs by impersonating NBA stars Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin.
Cadence, the step group from Stony Brook, put on a contrived dance-skit masquerading as a Law & Order mystery about the murders of three students who had been “stomped to death.” Two detectives investigated three step groups in order to root out the killers; after the two “other” groups, which were really subsets of Cadence, put on comparatively unremarkable performances for the detectives, Cadence assumed its real identity and showed the audience the group’s fighting dance steps. The performance revealed that Cadence was responsible for the murders. The skit ended with the detectives chasing after the guilty steppers, only to find Cadence escaping on a “helicopter” that consisted of several dancers spinning on stage.
MCLA’s Nexxus attracted quite a turnout from the MCLA student body, who cheered enthusiastically as their classmates took the stage. The performance began with an all-female group of steppers, dressed in pink sweaters and validating their classmates’ cheers with a high-energy dance. Their performance was interrupted, however, when another group – wearing blue sweaters to represent a more masculine team – stormed the stage claiming to be the real Nexxus. Naturally, a dance battle ensued, as each side made a convincing case for why it should be considered the real Nexxus. Given the respective talents of the groups, each team proved it was qualified to claim the Nexxus name, and they eventually decided to unite to form a superior step team.
To conclude the contest, Sankofa took the stage to uproarious cheers from the crowd. The men were decked out in black suits and ties and the women were clad in silk shorts, white button-downs and red neckties. Sankofa brought its signature swagger to the stage, stomping so forcefully that the ’62 Center’s staff must have worried about the building’s structural integrity. Amid the enthusiastic cheers of their classmates, Sankofa put on a spirited and skilled performance.
Following the conclusion of Sankofa’s performance and a few minutes of deliberation, the panel of judges, which consisted of the founding member of Sankofa and other group alumni, Organized C.H.A.O.S. was declared the winner, accepting the victory to tremendous applause from the crowd.