Arts & Entertainment

‘Step Afrika!’ celebrates 30 years of paying homage to African history and culture

The award-winning event reflects moving Black stories and African culture through song and step dancing on stage. 

“Step Afrika!” is celebrating its 30th year as an arts company that promotes teamwork, inclusivity and academic achievement through stepping. Originally created in the 90s by C. Brian Williams, “Step Afrika!” began as a festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

 It incorporates heritage, history and cross-cultural understanding through rhythmic homage and step dancing performances meant to invoke passion and inspire dance through community teamwork.  

According to the “Step Afrika!” website, the tour company has toured more than 60 countries across the globe and has a ranking as one of the top 10 African American Dance Companies in the US. 

It specifically reflects African-inspired dances and stepping that can help teach viewers about Africa’s culture. One dance that they perform shows dancers wearing Native African inspired outfits and attire while performing. It incorporates several different genres within its dance and uses storytelling of Africa’s history.  

Their most recent performance on March 24 was at The Tacoma Pantages theatre where they performed for their 30th year as a tour company. While the show was not sold out, it was still able to draw in and large crowd, with many children in the audience. The family-friendly show was interactive and heavily encouraged audience participation. 

Several times throughout the show, performers would yell at the crowd for feedback and to help judge a competition between the dancers. One dancer yelled out, “when I say alright you say okay, alright?” The crowd yelled back loudly with strong excitement. 

A few people next to me were even plugging their ears from how uproarious the crowd was. The dancers began stepping with long arduous dance numbers of them slapping their legs, arms and feet to create sound while they moved. They smiled as they jumped and danced in a group together while only using their body as an instrument for music.  

The dances seemed very technical and well-choreographed. There was immense agility and energy put into every dance number. In one part of the show, they did a dance called “Gumboot dance,” which showed them stepping in large high-rise rubber boots. It showed them imitating workers throwing out piles of rock from a mountain. One of the dancers explained that the Gumboot dance is inspired by the Gumboot miners of South Africa who used their own rubber boots to make sound and communicate with one another. 

 “This is how the miners would send signals and let each other know when someone like their boss was approaching,” said one of the dancers. The dance also incorporates sounds from singing and dialogue between the dancers who use humor to tell the story.  

The Gumboot dance is just one of several dance numbers that reflect deeply woven African history and culture. The show makes a strong effort to educate its audience members about the importance of cross-cultural understanding and acceptance of diversity. Many times, throughout the show they mention the brief history behind each dance and how it has helped shape its community of people.  

The performance not only shapes our understanding of how we view other groups of people but also how we are influenced by an abundance of culture and ethnic background. The U.S. has a strong melting pot of racially ethnic minorities that make up a significant portion of the population. Exploring the cultural backgrounds of these communities is just one way we deepen our understanding of each other.  

To learn more about “Step Afrika!” please visit their website: 

“Step Afrika!” stage at Tacoma Pantages Theatre. Photo by Rachel Meatte.

Cast members of “Step Afrika!” Photo by Keith Major.