Arts and Entertainment

Black Dance

What is stepping?

African-American Greek-letter organizations, or fraternities and sororities, on college campuses developed a complex dance performance called stepping, as one of their rituals of group identity. The ritual of “marching on line,” or marching in a line across the college campus, may have helped stimulate the stepping, as it became known. This tradition has been passed on for generations, making step shows a part of many black festivals and celebrations. The step show itself has gained worldwide popularity. Terms often associated with stepping include demonstrating, stomping, bopping, and marching. Stepping may also include synchronized movement of high steps, and clapping, arm crossing, and shoulder tapping (all mixed with speaking), and chanting. The routines are composed and transmitted orally, with a step master who leads the group. Some of the Greek-letter organizations have trade or signature steps which help to identify the organization. Stepping demonstrates the influences of break dancing, hip hop, and early elements of slave dances.


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