“Dancing Locally, Stepping Globally”: Step Afrika! appears in the New York Times for the first time

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Dancing Locally, Stepping Globally

Written by ALASTAIR MACAULAY for the New York Times, published August 19, 2008


Many hundreds of people turned up for the free open-air dance performances at Lincoln Center on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in Damrosch Park. The dances covered quite a range, deriving from the Ivory Coast, Haiti, Brazil and, well, the Alps. That is, the Alps as rendered by Rodgers, Hammerstein and Hollywood.


“Maria” was preceded by Step Afrika!, the first American company devoted to “stepping.” This, in its percussive nature, rhythmic intensity, and African sources, had more in common with the three companies that performed the following afternoon, over three hours, as part of “Heritage Sunday.” The Center for Traditional Music and Dance is celebrating both its 4oth anniversary and its 10th year of performing outdoors at Lincoln Center: “Heritage Sunday” was presented under its aegis.


I’m happy to learn about forms of music and dance about which I know little, and I like best the lessons that come from live performances. The stepping of Step Afrika! is fun for its physical intricacy. Even when the performers maintain a steady meter, they make it intricate by their mixture of tapping, clapping, slapping different body parts, and — a regular trick — clapping hands under a raised thigh.



Sunday’s three companies were as obviously different from one another in sound and dance as you would expect from troupes representing the African-Brazilian culture of Salvador, the part-African culture of Haiti, and the African culture of the Ivory Coast. But they all tended to produce a complex intensity of drum rhythms that was seldom if ever matched by the dancing.



Be A Part of Our History

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. Under Mr. Williams’ leadership, stepping has evolved into one of America’s cultural exports, touring more than 60 countries across the globe. To share your Step Afrika! story, visit Step Afrika!'s 30th Anniversary Timeline is made possible by the generous funding of Bloomberg Philanthropies, with additional support from the Mellon Foundation and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

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