Step Afrika! brings Lexington audience onstage

The D.C.-based dance group showcased stepping at the Lenfest Center

Performer+Ronnique+Murray+poses+with+audience+participant+and%0ARCHS+student%2C+Anna+Wilson%2C+after+the+Step+Afrika%21+show.+Photo+by+Grace+Mamon.
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Step Afrika! brings Lexington audience onstage

Performer Ronnique Murray poses with audience participant and
RCHS student, Anna Wilson, after the Step Afrika! show. Photo by Grace Mamon.

Performer Ronnique Murray poses with audience participant and RCHS student, Anna Wilson, after the Step Afrika! show. Photo by Grace Mamon.

Performer Ronnique Murray poses with audience participant and RCHS student, Anna Wilson, after the Step Afrika! show. Photo by Grace Mamon.

Performer Ronnique Murray poses with audience participant and RCHS student, Anna Wilson, after the Step Afrika! show. Photo by Grace Mamon.

Grace Mamon

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Professional dance company Step Afrika! brought audience members onstage to showcase stepping at the Lenfest Center for the Arts on Jan. 16.

Step Afrika! is the “first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping,” according to the event program. The group has nationwide recognition for step tradition and audience participation during their shows.

The performers described stepping as a “polyrhythmic, percussive symphony” and used their entire bodies to create rhythms out of footsteps, claps and words.

The show consisted of contemporary dances, traditional West and South African dances and dances developed by historically AfricanAmerican fraternities and sororities.

Step Afrika! prompted laughs, shouts and claps from the audience throughout the performance. Performers instructed certain sections of the sold-out theater to clap in different patterns or shout different words to create a layered sound.

At one point, performers brought audience members up on stage and taught them several different step moves. Spencer Tyree, 10, who attends Enderly Heights Elementary School in Buena Vista, was one of them.

“I was a little bit nervous and a little bit excited at the same time,” Tyree said. “I like dancing. I’ve always tried to do it, but it’s hard.”

Several university students and a 14-year-old named Anna Wilson also participated.

Performer Ronnique Murray poses with audience participant and RCHS student, Anna Wilson, after the Step Afrika! show. Photo by Grace Mamon.

One of the goals of Step Afrika! is to encourage teamwork and collaboration. The show included a dance battle between the male and female dancers. After each side won a round, the host, Matthew Evans, said there would not be a tie-breaker round because “we step better when we step together.”

The performers exhibited their emphasis on interaction with the audience through their post-show reception. They met audience members in the lobby of Lenfest to introduce themselves, take pictures and sign programs.

Stepper Deatrice Clark, a Howard University graduate, said the Step Afrika! crew is special because of its variety of talent.

“I’m traditionally just a stepper, but we have ladies who have tapped and danced ballet,” she said. “We have athletes, there are backflips in the show, people who are trained in gymnastics. So that’s what makes it fun.”

Step Afrika! is currently touring to celebrate the group’s 25th anniversary of bringing the energy of stepping to audiences around the globe.