Sankofa celebrates 15th year with powerful step routines

Sankofa did it again. Through a combination of passion, sweat and a family-like connection, Kofa brought us another incredible step performance.

The steppers of Sankofa put on a performance with infectious energy on Friday and Saturday, continuing a 15-year tradition of artistic innovation.

This time, however, the group included a twist: Friday and Saturday night in the ’62 Center, Sankofa taught the audience a little bit about its rich history and current stepping pedigree. Both nights were dedicated to Sankofa’s 15th anniversary and honored the five women who formed the group in 1996: Dahra Jackson ’00, Maxine Lyle ’00, Mya Fisher ’00, Melina Evans ’00 and Samantha Reed ’00. The group prepared several videos which played throughout the performance, ranging from bits of history to member testimonials of what it’s like to be a part of the Kofa family.

The audience learned that stepping was originally popularized on the campuses of American colleges in the 1900s by African-American fraternities, and it was brought to the College not only to allow students to practice an incredible art form but also toprovide them with a home and a mode of expression; members say Kofa has done just that. Although Sankofa perpetuates its roots and certainly draws from past members’ routines, the group never fails to bring us fresh steps, making history at every show.

Steppers turn their bodies into tools, and in their dances, they are precise and absolutely synchronized, creating steps to mimic a body moving as one. Sankofa often incorporates popular songs (in this particular show, one of my favorite steps was done to “Slight Work” by Wale) drums, break dance, hip-hop, poetry and even strings – Paul Adeleke ’15 played an amazing violin solo during one of the steps, adding a refreshingly creative touch.

It has often been said that Sankofa’s legendary recitals are not something you watch, but something you experience. To know the true measure of this statement, one absolutely has to attend the show, but I’ll try to sum it up for you. The impact can be wildly different from one person to the next. You may love the adrenaline rush that comes from witnessing such strength and passion communicated through dance, the simple pleasure of enjoying such a beautifully crafted performance or the story that is told through Sankofa’s steps. No matter what you like best, you are guaranteed a surprising, breathtaking experience.

What is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of step is not what one sees immediately, but the work that goes into creating a show. The members of Sankofa can be found in the dance studio 10 hours a week, from 10 p.m. to midnight, some days even going until one a.m. In those conditions, it is impossible not to become emotionally and mentally involved in work such as this, work that requires not only body but mind and soul to voice the kind of passion that was witnessed during this weekend’s landmark shows.

The steppers were transparent in their emotions and the connections they held to Sankofa and its members. It could not have been clearer that they care very deeply for each other. They were pushed together, perhaps hesitantly at first, and became a family as strong as any other through their joint passions for step dancing. For me in particular, the most astounding fact about the group is that its members become their own choreographers – not only do they have to learn complex, rhythmic dance moves, but they also have to imagine and create them beforehand. It is a talent I can hardly fathom possessing, and one that attests not only to the steppers’ sheer creativity but to their consistent determination and intelligence.

At the same time that Kofa’s show was visceral, fulfilling the visual and auditory senses, it was also intellectual, taking the spectator through the soul of step. Sankofa put on another incredible set of shows this weekend, with an added swagger in honor of its alumni as well as its founders. If you haven’t seen Sankofa perform yet, I suggest you jump on the next opportunity to see this talented group in their element.

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