From June 29 – July 4, the American dance company Step Afrika! took South Africa by storm, teaching and performing in the Mother City. They electrified young and old with the American dance form of stepping. After a youth camp, two free performances for the general public, and three exhilarating live appearances on national television, Step Afrika! reached millions of South Africans with their positive message of teamwork, U.S.-South Africa collaboration, and cross-cultural understanding.
Step Afrika! was brought to South Africa through an Arts Envoy grant from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and support from the U.S. Embassy, Pretoria. They partnered with the U.S. Consulate in Cape Town and a local dance theatre called iKapa to conduct a five-day youth step camp that taught the values of teamwork and discipline to 60 South African young people. The camp was held at Garlandale High School in the neighborhood of Athlone and the participants were drawn from diverse backgrounds. The purpose of the camp was to teach leadership skills to South Africa’s “Born Free” generation while emphasizing the importance of drawing strength from diversity.
Based in Washington, D.C., Step Afrika! is one of the top ten African American dance companies in the United States and the only professional dance organization in the world dedicated to the art of stepping. Stepping is a rhythmic dance style that originated on college campuses among African American fraternities and sororities during the 20th century. As Step Afrika! Founder and Director C. Brian Williams says, “In stepping, we transform our bodies into percussive instruments, using our hands, our feet, and voices to make music and produce very complex rhythms.”
Although the company is based in Washington, D.C., it was founded in the South African neighborhood of Soweto in 1994 when Williams collaborated with the founder of the Soweto Dance Theatre Jackie Semela. Ever since then, Step Afrika! has shared African and American dance traditions with the world, fostering cross-cultural understanding where ever they go.
For more information on Step Afrika!, please visit:http://www.stepafrika.org/.