Catch the Step Show 

Step to It: An old folk dance becomes a modern art

As part of MOJA Festival's Heritage Day celebration this Saturday, step teams from area schools and churches will perform on Hampton Park's main stage.

Stepping is a historical form of communication and storytelling that traces its roots to Africa and is widely performed by African-American fraternities and sororities.

African-American men working on the railroad during the early 1900s used rhythms and movements to communicate the placement of rails and ties, a job that required many individuals working in unison. Those rhythms and movements have evolved into the modern art form.

African-American fraternities and sororities during the 1960s transformed the cadences and steps into routines using call and response, dance, and improvisations using their hands and feet as percussion instruments to create spectacularly entertaining performances.

The folk art form has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and this year marks its first appearance at MOJA. Festival coordinator Elease Amos-Goodwin says six groups are expected to participate.

"Our focus for asking local schools, churches, and community groups to join us was not just to educate and entertain, but also to give our youth some exposure," says Amos-Goodwin.

Among the groups participating will be teams representing Murray Hill Academy, Charleston Recreation Department's St. Julian Devine Community Center, Stratford High School, and Mt. Moriah Baptist Church.

North Charleston Recreation Dept. Middle School Athletic Program Coordinator Edwina Peterson says stepping is catching on like wildfire. The department is currently accepting applicants to form teams. (She can be reached at 745-1028.)

"We're trying to find ways to get more kids involved in alternative activities like stepping. The kids seem to like the music, beat, energy, and performing of the steps," she says. This will be the first year the department will include stepping as part its recreation programs.

In addition to the step show at Hampton Park, other Heritage Day activities include the annual health fair and Women's Health Symposium at Burke High School beginning at 7:30 a.m. with registration and breakfast.

Also at Hampton Park from noon-4 p.m., health screenings will be conducted and COBRA Human Services Agency will sponsor family tree displays as part of its Family Expo. —Barney Blakeney

Catch the Step Show at Heritage Day from noon-2 p.m. on Sat. Sept. 29 at Hampton Park's main stage. Free.

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