News & Events

Step Afrika! performs at UMPI October 1

The University of Maine at Presque Isle is proud to present one of the top 10 African dance companies in the United States—Step Afrika!—for a performance on Saturday, October 1 at 8 p.m. in the Auditorium in Wieden Hall as a part of the University’s Homecoming 2016 Celebration. This event is free and open to the public; donations to future cultural events will be accepted at the door.

With roots in Johannesburg, South Africa, this high energy dance company has been featured on ABC News and is an official U.S. Cultural Ambassador. Step Afrika! has performed on stages throughout the U.S. and around the world from Madagascar to Morocco. The group also regularly performs on Washington, D.C.’s biggest stages, including the Kennedy Center, and in the White House.

Step Afrika! will take you on a journey through dance during its performance, from Chicago jazz dancing to traditional Zulu dancing to South African “gumboot dancing”. The company also has pieces that bring together different musical genres, pay homage to jazz masters Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, and serve as a tribute to the African American step show. The group is known for its interaction during performances, getting audience members up on their feet stomping, clapping, cheering, and taking part in call and response with the artists.

According to C. Brian Williams, founder and Executive Director of the accomplished dance company: “Step Afrika! transforms the theater into a space where everyone can make music and dance. The world is Step Afrika!’s favorite stage and the Company enjoys performing everywhere from opera houses to community centers.”

Step Afrika! performances involve a wide range of dances and costumes that capture African culture. The dancers deliver a performance that awakens all of the senses, using their bodies to stomp, clap, and yell, and using effects such as live musicians and special lighting to connect with their audience.  The Washington Post describes the dancers in Step Afrika! as “electrifying talents.”

The dance company has been recognized by the President of the United States, and has had the opportunity to perform in the White House as a part of President Barack Obama’s 2016 Black History Month Celebration.

Step Afrika! is a charitable organization and the first in the world dedicated to stepping. The organization uses stepping—an art form that is an important part of America’s artistic and cultural heritage—as an educational, motivational, and nurturing tool for young people. They accomplish this through art education activities, international cultural exchange programs, and performances worldwide.

A form of percussive dance, stepping involves using one’s entire body as an instrument. Footsteps, hand claps, and spoken word are combined to create complex rhythms. While stepping is usually performed in groups of three or more people, it can be performed by an individual. This form of dancing began in the early 1900’s when African American fraternities and sororities would host song and dance rituals.

Step Afrika! brings this dance form to children across the country, teaching them about art through stepping. For the past 10 years, the dance company has participated in a week-long summer camp program sponsored by Washington Performing Arts.

“Step Afrika! is a wonderfully talented and renowned cultural performance group,” Beth Olsen, UMPI Coordinator of Campus Engagement, said. “We are honored to be able to bring them to perform for the campus and entire northern Maine community.”

After its founding in 1994, Step Afrika! has worked to become one of the top African dance companies in the U.S., and to become Washington, D.C.’s largest African American arts organization. Each year, Step Afrika! visits more than 50 U.S. and Canadian cities as a part of its North American Tour.

For more information about Step Afrika!, visit the website at www.stepafrika.org/. For more information on the performance at UMPI, please call 207-768-9582 or email elizabeth.olsen@maine.edu.