Show gives step a modern beat

The members of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. sorority stepped their way into their Fourth Annual Charity Step Show overall championship Saturday night in Lisner Auditorium. The show raised $2,000 for The March of Dimes.

Historically black fraternities and sororities from D.C. and Maryland competed to show off new twists of traditional step moves for the theme of this year’s show, “Stepping Into Mystery.” Fraternity and sorority members from the local colleges came together to compete against other chapters. The sold-out crowd chanted and cheered with each chapter’s distinct calls to show support for their colleagues on stage.

The members of Howard University’s chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. took home first place in the sorority division chanting, “When the queens come to town, everything shuts down.”

Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. won the fraternity division.

The show spilled into the streets as crowds of GW students watched the Baltimore Community Marching Rockers Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. sorority, who had performed earlier, drum and dance their way through H Street. Other fraternity and sorority members joined in – sometimes blocking traffic between the Marvin Center and Lisner Auditorium, but mainly remained on the sidewalk.

“This is how it’s supposed to be after the show,” said Cedraan Askew a Howard senior. “(It’s to) show some unity.”

The outside celebration continued for about 30 minutes, as students looked on from rooms in Crawford Hall and The Schenley and from across street.

Step is believed to have originated during slavery in the 1700’s, when slave masters took away the drums of arriving slaves and replaced them with work boots, forcing slaves to work in mines, according to a Feb. 22, 2000 Hatchet article. On Sundays, when white masters allowed their slaves to exercise, the boot dance was born to revive the beat of the slaves’ lost drums. The steps tell a story and helped slaves secretly communicate about the Underground Railroad escape route, according to the article.

Now called step, these dances convey a message of history, tradition and perseverance, show participants said.

“Step dates back to our roots in Africa and is a traditional way to celebrate our pride,” Delta Sigma Theta member Jalila Brown said. Delta Sigma Theta was GW’s first historically black sorority.

Brown said instead of drums, step dancers use their feet and body to tell a story. Each sorority and fraternity performed its own special moves, making each dance distinct from the next.

The overall champions from the Delta Sigma Theta sorority captured the audience’s attention in their pink leather jackets and matching boots. Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha performed their step routine in business suits and high heels, pretending to admire themselves using their hand as a mirror while they chanted, “I’d hate me too if I were you.”

Iota Phi Beta fraternity steppers used a theme from the hit movie The Matrix for their dance using a man as a human jump rope.

The Omega Psi Phi fraternity members painted their faces, dressed in army gear and drew excited roars from the crowd as two soldiers stripped their shirts off.

The show’s emcee told the audience the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, who donned silver-sequined ties Saturday night, visited an African tribe and used their steps in the show.

GW’s National Panhellenic Council, who sponsored the event, held an official after party at the Hippodrome in the fifth floor of the Marvin Center.

-Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.

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