Members of multicultural Greek-letter organizations stepped and stomped across the Lisner Auditorium stage Saturday night for the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity’s seventh annual Step Competition.
Stepping is a tradition of black fraternities and sororities whose members create rhythms by clapping and stomping. The art form comes from a mixture of traditional African dancing and military precision movements. Modern stepping is creative, with contemporary dance moves.
This year’s show theme was “Stepping into Love” because it fell on Feb. 14 – Valentine’s Day. About 950 people attended the two-hour-long show, compared to about 1,500 last year, said Isaiah Pickens, president of Alpha Phi Alpha.
“(Getting another date) was a big problem this year because Lisner was booked for almost every other night,” Pickens said. “When we were planning this summer, we saw that it was on Valentine’s Day and on a three-day weekend and knew that could be a problem.”
The event raises money for the Martin Luther King National Memorial Project, which is working to get a memorial statue for the civil rights leader on the National Mall in the next 10 years. This year’s event raised $3,000 for the organization, compared to $5,000 last year.
“I think we were still able to raise a good amount of money for MLK Foundation,” Pickens said.
Six fraternities and sororities competed for a $1,000 first prize. Team members came from the University of Maryland and American and Catholic universities, among other schools. No GW undergraduate teams competed.
All male competitors wore shirts with ties, and the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity wore red suspenders in honor of Valentine’s Day. Women’s costumes varied by team. Each group performed skits and danced in synchronized rhythmic movements.
This year’s first-prize winner was the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which sent its Federal City Alumni Chapter, comprised of D.C. area alumni. The group created a space theme, dancing on silver chairs, decked out in silver jumpsuits and red wigs.
The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, hailing from Atlanta, won $500 for best fraternity. The performance featured an interlude to Outkast’s “Hey Ya” with one member doing back flips across the stage.
Decked out in black pants, shirts decorated in rhinestones and beret hats, the Zeta Phi Beta’s Metro Area Squad won $500 for best sorority.
Competitors said they trained for months for several competitions in the east and south each year. Each competition requires a different routine and costumes, and every Greek-letter organization has its own dance moves and chants.
The performance also showcased the skills of a new member of the Greek-letter community, the Sigma Lambda Upsilon sorority, or Senoritas Latinas Unidas.
“This is our first performance because the Alpha Gamma chapter was chartered here last spring,” said Dahlia Velerade, a member of the sorority. The team did a step exhibition instead of competing.
Members of multicultural Greek-letter organizations screamed out their group dialogues. Many students in attendance cheered loudly for the competitors.
“It’s a fabulous event. It’s really nice to (go to) a different event from the usual Greek scene,” said junior Dorie Ain, a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority. “The talent they had was unbelievable.”