Step Afrika! Made Some Noise and Brought the House Down

Helen Cudahy Niblack ’42 Arts Lecture Series: Inspired by Performance

Step Afrika! had the girls, the faculty, and even Austi Brown ’73 — the founder of the Helen Cudahy Niblack ’42 Arts Lecture Series — up on their feet and making a happy noise in FoxHound Auditorium on Tuesday morning. The dance troupe hails from Washington, DC, and performed its percussive and energetic dance called “stepping” for the entire Foxcroft community. This was the latest educational and inspirational presentation in the Niblack Arts Series.
In, and in between, their synchronized and highly athletic dances, the steppers narrated the story of how stepping grew out of dancing traditions from Africa, including South Africa's gumboot dance. It was developed by miners, who wanted to communicate with one another as they worked underground, stamping and slapping their gumboots to indicate danger, the arrival of the bosses, and lunch, among other things, after drumming and speaking had been banned by the authorities. They explained that in the early 1900’s, when African-Americans began to attend college in larger numbers, they adopted stepping as a way to communicate their allegiance to their fraternities and sororities.

The Foxcroft girls’ response was enthusiastic, to say the least! With each invitation to call-and-response with words, claps, and steps, they joined in, no holds barred. It only took a few moments for the entire auditorium to start clapping, stepping, and chanting along with the steppers. It was a joyfully raucous way to celebrate and learn about this culturally important art form.

After their performance, the steppers took about 60 girls from Stephanie Young’s World Cultures classes and Foxcroft’s dance teams, Rhythm Nation and Step Club, through their paces in two separate workshops. The workshops began with the all-important warm-up, then moved on to learning several essential “steps,” finally culminating in groups of 10 or so creating and practicing a step routine. Each group performed their routine to the delighted shouts, claps, and stamps of encouragement of their peers. What a great day!

The theme for this and the next few Niblack artists is “Inspired by Performance.” It seems to have worked … the faculty is pulling together its own Faculty Step Team! Watch for a performance near you. We will definitely keep you posted.

The Helen Cudahy Niblack ’42 Arts Lecture Series, established by Austi Brown ’73 in memory of her mother, has brought a variety of literary, performing, and fine artists to Foxcroft to share their work, stories, and perspective on the nature of the creative process with both students and the larger community since it began in 2007, and perhaps inspire a few to strike out on an artistic journey of their own.
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An all-girls boarding and day school in Northern Virginia, Foxcroft prepares young women in grades 9-12 for success in college and in life. Our outstanding academic program offers challenging courses, including Advanced Placement classes and an innovative STEM program. Our premiere equestrian program is nationally recognized, and our athletic teams have won conference and state championships. Experience the best in girls' boarding schools: visit Foxcroft.