Stomp, stomp, step. Stomp, step, stomp. Stomp, stomp, step.
Much like Broadway’s “Stomp,” Step Afrika! performers keep rhythms while they dance. Their bodies are their instruments.
The world-renowned dance group from Washington, D.C., will be stomping and stepping March 2 on the Northshore Performing Arts Center stage in Bothell.
“It’s exciting for us to bring in an award-winning dance company,” said John Lehrack, managing director of Northshore Performing Arts Foundation. “This isn’t another ballet or modern dance company — it’s a little bit more like ‘Stomp,’ if you’ve seen that.
“Different culture and music is important to us, so we thought, ‘Let’s just bring them to Bothell and see what people think.’”
Step Afrika! pays homage to African-American stepping, as well as the South African Zulu and gumboot dances. In addition to these traditional African foot dances, you’ll also see contemporary stomp.
Step was born at historically black universities in the early 1900s. Stepping became a way that members of African-American fraternities and sororities show pride in their organizations. With footsteps, claps and spoken words, dancers create many rhythms.
Founder C. Brian Williams launched Step Afrika! in 1994. The Howard University graduate learned how to step as a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, before moving to Africa where he researched the tradition of stepping.
Twenty-five years later, Step Afrika! has become one of the top 10 African-American dance companies in the United States. The group has performed all over the world — including as the headliner of a Black History Month event at the White House for President Barack Obama in 2016.
“As we kept sharing what we learned, more and more people became interested in seeing and learning about the two cultures of stepping and South African dance,” said Mfon Akpan, artistic director and a performer in Step Afrika!
Step is no longer confined to the college campus. It is being taught and performed at churches, schools and in clubs. The dance also has been highlighted in such films as “Stomp the Yard,” “School Daze” and “Drumline.”
Each year Step Afrika! goes on a 50-city tour of colleges and theaters serving an ambassador to the art of stepping. When touring overseas, the group partners with local dance companies and arts organizations to develop performances that blend the dance styles of different cultures.
Step Afrika’s performance Saturday will be much more than a dance show — the performers will also bring in song, storytelling, humor and, yes, audience participation, Akpan said.
“The audience can expect a fun-filled, energetic experience unlike any other,” she said. “You truly become a part of the performance. You are not just a spectator when you attend a Step Afrika! show.”
Akpan, who stepped as a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said she’s most fond of the Zulu dance — it’s called Idlamu — that was historically performed by Zulu warriors.
“Once you experience the power of the drum and movement, you will understand why,” Apkan said. “It’s a very special moment in the show, and I love expressing what I’ve learned from South African culture.”
After manning the box office, Northshore Performing Arts Foundation’s Lehrack plans to sneak into the back to see the show. He’s excited to watch Step Afrika! because he’s never seen stepping before.
“It’s going to be high energy, which I love,” he said. “It’s really exciting to learn about culture and music that I don’t know.”
If you go
Step Afrika! will perform African dances at 7:30 p.m. March 2 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center, 18125 92nd Ave. NE, Bothell. Tickets are $45 for adults or $30 for youths. The box office opens one hour before the show. Call 425-298-3449 or go to www.npacf.org for more information.