The mood was giddy in Strong Auditorium Saturday for Stomp the ROC!, the 15th annual step show sponsored by UR’s Black Students’ Union.
As strobe lights flickered, and the first team, Distinguished Dynasty, began to perform, the audience shouted their support.
“That’s my sister,” called out a small voice.
After a brief introduction from two hosts the middle school competition began. The first team was the Panthers, made up of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, whose step was inspired by Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, “Where The Wild Things Are,”using Alessia Cara’s song, “Wild Things.”
This was followed by an intermission performance by UR’s step team, Xclusive. In an interview before the show, Jelani Gaffney, a junior captain on the group, talked about the supportive community surrounding step, illustrating his point with a story:
“We performed at a children’s hospital last year,” he said. “One of the mothers who was there went up to me and said, ‘You guys were really good, but I noticed a few of the newer members need to work on their stuff a little bit more.’ She spoke to me about how I could help bring that out.”
The next middle school team, Kings of Chaos, performed a spy movie–themed number that recieved a standing ovation, with the older students donning red suits, while dancers, as young as 6 wore burgundy.
The competition intensified when the high school teams performed. The first to perform, the Elite Step Team, featured an introductory slide show that took a few jabs at the Wilson Pearls, the previous year’s winner. The audience, however, stayed consistently supportive of the team’s intense and skillful show. An intermission featuring lighthearted contests for the younger kids and older audience members revitalized the sense of community with which the show began.
Next up, the Eliminators performed an elaborate routine with a Mortal Kombat theme. Finally, the Wilson Pearls performed. All the performers looked like puppets controlled by a puppet master, in a number that used the aisles as well as the stage.
In the middle school competition, the Panthers won second place, while first place went to the Kings of Chaos. In the high school competition, the Elite Step Team won third, The Eliminators won second, and the Wilson Pearls won first place, maintaining their streak.
The decision was slightly controversial. A few audience members spoke out.
“I thought The Eliminators were really nice. It was some kind of favoritism,” said Jasmine Fitzpatrick, who had come to see her nephew.
“It seems they give Wilson first place every year because they have a legacy,” said Valeria Hill, another audience member.
The Wilson Pearls are certainly more than a step team. All members are required to maintain a minimum 2.7 GPA and do hours of community service.
But Hill thought that the takeaway was ultimately positive.
“At the end of the day,” she said, “I think it’s a great thing for young people to express themselves.”
“I don’t show my personality unless I’m really close to people, so when I’m stepping I make sure that I bring it all out and embody what it means to be me and show that onstage and to people, without having to actually explain that this is me.”
Nahomi Pineda, a sophomore who is a junior captain of Xclusive, was thrilled with the entire experience.
“This being my first BSU step show as a captain, just hearing the crowd’s reactions gave me a huge confidence boost,” Pineda said. “It was just amazing.”