Step Afrika!, the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, will perform at Augustana College, Saturday, Feb. 11. The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.
The performance, which blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically Black fraternities and sororities, will be held at Centennial Hall, 3703 7th Ave., Rock Island. A pre-show featuring local dance groups will begin at 6 p.m. Step Afrika! will perform at 6:30 p.m.
The event is sponsored by Augustana’s Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Augustana College Greek Life.
Augustana students involved in the college’s step team were pivotal in the decision to bring Step Afrika! to campus. Stepping requires participants to use their entire bodies as instruments to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word and hand claps.
“There is no better time and no better place for this event to take place,” said Ashley Allen, director of the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity. “At Augustana College, we’re honored to be welcoming Step Afrika! during Black History Month and to a place that is continually learning and striving to embrace the traditions of all people. This will be an evening that will celebrate community, culture and the art of dance.”
Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 as an exchange program with the Soweto Dance Theatre of Johannesburg. It is one of the top five African American dance companies in the United States and the largest African American-led arts organization in Washington, D.C.
The company’s full-time dancers integrate songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation into their performances. Many of the dancers, all of whom are college graduates, attended historically Black colleges and universities and many of them are members of historically Black Greek fraternities and sororities.
Step Afrika! tours extensively, including reaching tens of thousands each year through a 50-city tour of American colleges and theaters. The company performs globally as an official U.S. Cultural Ambassador.
The company’s reach goes far beyond touring, Step Afrika!’s culture-based arts education reaches more than 20,000 Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia school students each year.
Step Afrika! is the next in a series of diversity-focused, large-scale events hosted by Augustana for the benefit of the campus and the community. In 2020, Yusef Salaam, of the Central Park Five was on campus. In 2021, Augustana hosted the Beyoncé Mass, and most recently the inaugural address in a Global Lecture Series was given by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.