For the past 17 years, UR’s Black Student Union has hosted a step dance competition at the beginning of the second semester. And every year, Strong Auditorium gets packed for the event with a huge, uproarious crowd.
“People are going to scream at step shows,” the man behind me said to his baby. “That’s what they’re for.”
After attending last year’s show, I knew more of what to expect from the step competition held on Saturday afternoon than I did last year. The screaming, yes, but also the passionate cheers, claps, and stomping from both audience members and the performers onstage. Like last year, it started with a performance to warm up the audience, some anecdotes from the hosts, and an introduction to the various divisions of the competition — junior, featuring dancers from local elementary/middle schools, and senior, high school/college teams that included two UR teams.
But what I didn’t expect from the show was the sheer magnitude of energy brought by both the teams and the hosts, senior Eugene Nichols III and junior Waliyah Johnson. While last year’s show lagged at points between acts, this year’s competition never faltered in enthusiasm. Even during intermission, the hosts called young performers to the stage for a dance competition. The auditorium was filled with passion and excitement, down to the little kids that were standing in the aisle trying to mirror the step moves they saw onstage.
Each team was decked in costumes to match this year’s theme, “A Step Through Disney.” The horns of Maleficent headgear were reflected on the walls as purple lights flashed onstage. There were a number of dancers dressed as Woody, one as Frozone. The opening act started with a clip from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” a sound to which the audience cheered and roared. The winning team from the junior division was Rhythm Nation, a group of girls that stepped to an audio recording from the Cheetah Girls movie. “This isn’t ‘That’s So Raven’ anymore,” one girl mouthed while slapping her arms against her sides. “This is Cheetah Girls, remember?”
Popular favorites that drew immense cheers from the crowd were Lake Ridge High School’s Royal Dynasty team and the Wilson Pearls, from Joseph C. Wilson High School. Their dance was Tron-themed, the projector on the stage lit up with a glitching computer screen and their clothes roped in blue string that glowed in the dark. Elite Empire’s dance opened with a clip from “Pinocchio” before a swath of performers dressed in bouncing dresses with popsicle-stick puppet-strings atop their heads stepped onstage.
UR’s own dance teams performed, too — Indulgence hip hop team and Xclusive step team, each dressed in Disney-esque costumes, and the Pan African Student Association’s Ma’frisha dance team. While the judges — a board of local community members — made their remarks about the best teams, a few of the greek multicultural fraternities danced onstage and performed their roll calls, one of them scattering rose petals in their wake.
The League of Extraordinary Steppers won, for the second year in a row. Ultimately, what strikes me about BSU’s step competition is that it seems to be one of the few events on campus that attracts a lot of the local community. Waiting in line for the bathroom afterwards, one of the little girls that came to watch her sister stepping told me, “I can’t wait until I’m good enough to dance like that.” And, honestly, me too.