Step dancing has become a cultural phenomenon over the last 25 years; among African American fraternities and sororities, the combination of whip-snap percussion, body movement and group choreography - with spoken word - draws large crowds from city to city. It began in this country's colleges, as a declaration of community allegiance, more than 100 years ago.
Of course, step dancing has roots in ancient African culture, including the "gumboot" dance of South African gold miners.
A member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation's oldest black fraternity, Brian Williams founded the Step Afrika! dance company in 1994. "People used to laugh," Williams says, "when I told them my idea for Step Afrika! They said, 'Stepping in a professional theater? Good luck!'"
Well, here we are, 16 years later, and the accolades keep coming in. Step Afrika! performs at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23 in the Fine Arts Auditorium at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
The free concert - "Looking Back and Stepping Forward: The Evolution of an African-American Dance Tradition" - will begin with a screening of the documentary film Many Steps.
See stepafrika.com to learn more.
Culture in Hilton Head
The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, up Hilton Head way, has announced its season of touring shows for the upcoming season. You can read all about ‘em at artshhi.com, but here's the short version:
Man of La Mancha, Sept. 29-Oct. 24. The popular ‘60s musical about Don Quixote and the Spanish Inquisition may have an impossible plot (it's a tad tough to follow), but "The Impossible Dream," "Dulcinea," "I Like Him" and the other songs are simply too great.
Hello, Dolly!, Dec. 1-26. Not my favorite show, but what do I know? It won a million Tonys and has endured. It is, of course, the musical story of irrepressible matchmaker Dolly Levi.
Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, Feb. 8-27. One wonders what Hitch would have thought about combining his quintessential whodunit with "zany comedy." Still, it won two Tonys and a Drama Desk award.
Hairspray, April 27-May 29. Always a good bit of fun, this musical love note to the dance crazes of the early ‘60s won eight Tonys, including Best Musical.
Smokey Joe's Café, June 21-July 31. A musical revue based on the classic ‘50s tunes of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
Also on the books for the Arts Center: The David Parsons Dance Company (Jan. 15), Preservation Hall Jazz Band (March 28) and comedy's Second City (Aug. 10).