'Step Afrika!' delivers high-energy performance


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Mfoniso Akpan the Assistant Artistic Director for Step Afrika tells the story of how step was created in Placta Auditorium Monday evening. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)

[wzslider autoplay="true" interval="5000" info="true" lightbox="true"]Members of "Step Afrika!" took the stage, using their bodies as instruments to produce traditional and modern African beats.

Founded in 1994 as the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, "Step Afrika!" delivered a high-energy performance Monday to the diverse crowd that filled Plachta Auditorium on Monday.

The performance was part of Central Michigan University's Black History Month events, sponsored by the Program Board and the Multicultural Academic Student Association.

"Step shows are big across the United States, but we haven't had one at CMU in a while," said D'Wayne Jenkins, assistant director of MASS. "This performance shows the relevance that stepping still has, while also being entertaining and educational."

"Step Afrika!" has performed throughout the U.S. and globally, including at the White House in Washington D.C. Members blend their percussive dance style, traditionally practiced by African-American fraternities and sororities, with influences from a variety of dance forms.

Their performance included songs, storytelling, humor and participation from the audience, inviting some students on stage to step with them.

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Brittny Smith steps in a battle, brothers verses sisters, with her company for Step Afrika Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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Eight Central Michigan University students were pulled on stage to learn a step routine from the Step Afrika company members Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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Briana Stuart, a native of Detroit, Mich. performs a step routine Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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Mfoniso Akpan, Artis J. Olds and Joe Murchison part of the Step Afrika company performs their opening step routine Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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The dance company of Step Afrika performs a step routine for 2014 Black History Month, Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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Mfoniso Akpan the Assistant Artistic Director for Step Afrika performs a step routine based on a story set in Africa Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)
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Eight Central Michigan University students were pulled on stage to learn a step routine from the Step Afrika company members Monday evening at Placta Auditorium. (Shannon Millard | Staff Photographer)

One student invited on stage was Saginaw sophomore Brianna Haynes.

"I really enjoyed this performance and would definitely see it again," she said. "It brings awareness to stepping and black Greek culture as well."

In stepping, the human body is used to create intricate rhythms and sounds with footsteps, claps and spoken word. Students were enthusiastic at the performance, cheering loudly and clapping back to the performers.

"Step Afrika!" is used as an educational tool for young people, teaching teamwork, academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding.

Students said they were eager to see a performance like "Step Afrika!" again at CMU.

"It's part of a culture people don't get to see very often," said Illinois senior Crystal Hutson. "Once you see it, it's a completely different experience and it's easy to explain and appreciate."

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