The Collegian
Friday, August 14, 2020

Stepping 101 delayed to overlap with visiting step company

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.’s annual Stepping 101 competition will take place Jan. 29 instead of during the fall semester in order to coincide with the arrival of the professional step company, Step Afrika!

“Because SpiderBoard is bringing Step Afrika! in January, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated chose to push back Stepping 101 to coincide with that," director of Greek life Meg Pevarski said. “So hopefully there could be some stronger education about the history of stepping, where it came from, what it’s all about.”

SpiderBoard is bringing Step Afrika! to campus Jan. 27. “There will be a performance, but they also fold into the history, because stepping did not originate with Greek organizations,” Pevarksi said. The company, which according to its website is “the first professional dance company dedicated to promoting the traditions of step,” will be in Heilman Dining Center at noon on Jan. 27 for a stepping preview.

The company will be hosting a workshop to teach students how to step in the Alice Haynes Room at 2:30 and will complete its University of Richmond tour at 7:30 p.m. with a performance in the Alice Jepson Theater in the Modlin Center for the Arts. Tickets are required for the performance and are available for pick up on Jan. 21, 22 and 26 in the Tyler Hanes Commons from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Alpha Phi Alpha has hosted the stepping competition at Richmond for the past five years, and proceeds from the event go toward its national philanthropy, March of Dimes. March of Dimes is a non-profit organization that raises money for premature birth research and awareness, Kenton Meronard, president of Alpha Phi Alpha, said.

Last year the competition raised $1,513 for March of Dimes, which ranked Alpha Phi Alpha as a top chapter nationally, Meronard said. The Alpha Phi Alpha chapter at Richmond is also the Eastern region and Virginia region's chapter of the year for March of Dimes. Meronard also serves on the board of directors for March of Dimes in central Virginia.

Each of the five Panhellenic sororities on campus will compete in Alpha Phi Alpha’s stepping competition, this year’s theme being “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Each sorority has been paired with a step master who helps the step participants craft a routine between eight and 14 minutes, Meronard said.

Members from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. are serving as step masters this year, in addition to other National Pan-Hellenic Council members in the area, Pevarski said. The practices are usually multi-month processes, where the groups practice for hours upon hours, she said.

Stepping is a dance form that has evolved over many years, first originating from the gold mines of South Africa during the apartheid in the 1940s and '50s, Meronard said. “The conditions within the mines kind of led to the workers trying to find a means of communicating with each other,” Meronard said.

Maintaining focus is the hardest part about stepping, Meonard said. “You can learn the steps, but if you aren’t focused, it’s really hard to get through the whole routine.”

Judges who have experience in stepping have been chosen by Alpha Phi Alpha to judge the sororities on their costumes, precision and complexity among other categories. The winner of the competition will receive a cash prize of $500. The money has typically gone to the sorority’s individual philanthropy of choice, Pevarski said. Money will also be given to the step master’s philanthropy of choice, she said.

Members from the fraternity will be tabling in the commons the week of Jan. 29 and will be selling tickets to the event for $10. Alpha Phi Alpha will not be stepping at the competition but has most recently stepped at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day ceremony on campus.

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“I think it is a good opportunity to get all of the various student groups on campus together,” Meronard said. “I think it gives them an opportunity to learn a bit more about us, some of our traditions, while it’s also helping to foster better relations on campus.”

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