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Soulstepping: Folk Roots Mixed With Rap
Ritual Dance of Identity & African Heritage

SoulsteppingSoulstepping has been happening at college frats and sororities for decades. The popularity of musicals like Stomp, loosely based on the rhythms of soulstepping have begun to mainstream this dance/music/art form.

In her recently published book Soulstepping: African American Step Shows, Virginia Tech Professor Elizabeth Fine has produced the first book to document the history of stepping. According to Fine, "Stepping is a complex performance that melds folk traditions with popular culture and involves synchronized percussive movement, singing, speaking, chanting, and drama."

Fine was introduced to stepping in 1983 when an African American student in her class on verbal art invited her to attend a block show on campus. "What makes stepping so stimulating is the range of movement patterns and verbal genres it encompasses," Fine writes in the introduction to the book.

Stepping originated as one way for African American fraternities and sororities to develop an identity. It became a way for them to poke fun jovially at rival social organizations..

In Soulstepping, Fine looks at the history of stepping and its place as a ritual dance of identity and African heritage. She also looks at new participants, new venues for the dance, and the cultural politics of African American step shows.

"Soulstepping explores the process of creating and negotiating identity through stepping, probing the intersections of verbal and nonverbal performances as well as issues of cultural politics and the effects of commodification," Fine said.

"It is my hope that Soulstepping will be significant to the fields of dance, folklore, black studies, performance studies, communication, and to all those who are drawn to the beauty and power of African American stepping."

Virginia Tech professor and poet Nikki Giovanni said of Fine's book, "…All groups have dance steps that the group performs together for the pure joy of celebrating life. Soulstepping brings out that joy, that exhilaration, that love of life. This celebration is long overdue."

Soulstepping: African American Step Shows is published by the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)

More about soulstepping around the Web:

Stepping (African-American) - Wikipedia


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