Spreading culture and diversity through dancing

Step Afrika celebrates Black History Month tonight

By Moriah Gilbert | 2/15/15 8:50pm

Grand Valley State University celebrates Black History Month with a performance on Feb. 16 by Step Afrika, the first professional dance company dedicated to the tradition of stepping.

Step Afrika's mission is to preserve, expand and share the history of this highly energetic dance. Stepping is an art form that stems from a long tradition in African-based communities. It uses the body as an instrument to create movement, words and sounds that communicate allegiance to a group.

"They not only perform in theaters and communities around the world, but also teach workshops," said Kaylee Groenewold, Spotlight Productions music committee chair. "They strongly believe in the importance of art education."

Spotlight decided to host this event because they wanted to bring an event to campus that is outside of the box.

"They have such incredible talent and passion, and I wanted to introduce the Grand Valley community to such a rich culture tradition," Groenewold said.

The event’s purpose is to expose students to unfamiliar cultural experiences.

"Sometimes I feel like the West Michigan area is so one-dimensional," Groenewold said. "These experiences are a vital part of education."

The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Cultural Council helped Spotlight Productions bring Step Afrika to campus. The group last performed at GVSU in 2003.

"It's great to bring them back with the collaboration between Spotlight Productions and the Culture Council," said Bobby Jo Springer, associate director of OMA.

Springer hopes to expose something that not many people have witnessed before.

"It's a combination between African dance and step dance, and it's always an outstanding performance," Springer said.

Step Afrika will also interact with the audience, enriching them with history throughout the performance, making it not only entertaining, but also educational.

"This is hard work and dedication in order to put this performance out including hours and hours of practice time to be able to get these results," Springer said.

Step Afrika's mission statement promotes appreciation for stepping by its use as an educational, motivational and healthy tool for young people. They accomplish this through arts education activities, international cultural exchange programs and performances worldwide.

"We want people to come in and see what African Americans bring to the table," Springer said. "Teamwork, discipline, self-control and commitment are all parts of this whole thing."

Step Afrika's performance is Monday at 9 p.m. in the GVSU Cook-DeWitt Center. The event is LIB 100 & 201 approved. For more information, contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs at oma@gvsu.edu or visit www.gvsu.edu/oma.

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