Step shows can be found nearly everywhere in the United States. Once exclusively performed by African American Greek fraternities and sororities who originally helped to develop the popularity of the step shows, these shows are spreading across the country and around the world. More and more people are becoming involved in stepping from campus organizations and church groups to high schools and local communities.
The international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities under the umbrella organization for nine historically Black, the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is an international Greek lettered group. . The Greek-lettered societies which are referred to collectively as the “Divine Nine”, each evolved as organizations during a period when African-Americans were being denied essential rights and privileges afforded other college students.
Some Greek organizations help to coordinate step competitions in middle and high schools, affording the younger generations an opportunity to experience what stepping is all about. While many of the step show organizations and competitions follow in the footsteps of the African American Greek organizations, they also help preserve and promote their cultural history as well as promote the importance of making a difference in their communities. A portion of proceeds from the step shows sometimes goes to build scholarship funds or used to help the communities. This form of dance give much more than entertainment to the people involved. It also gives them the chance to help out in any way they can.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities or HBCU are educational institutions in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the African American community.
The Greek-lettered societies include:
o Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
o Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
o Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
o Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
o Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
o Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
o Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
o Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
o Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.
In the late 1960s, historically Black fraternities and sororities began embracing stepping at college campuses. Previously using step shows as a rite of passage for pledges, the Black Greek letter system has a strong role in the college step scene. There are often specific steps to each chapter and sometimes the groups playfully mock each other’s styles during competitions and benefits. Each society or fraternity has its own step team. Stepping in these organizations provides an enjoyable bonding experience.
Members of step teams practice the routine twice a week, which is coordinated by a trainer. Pulling steps from past experience by members enables teams to mesh together an assortment of steps to keep audiences interested. Members are encouraged to make up their own steps and give suggestions about what works and what does not.
Many people may be discouraged at the sight of a step routine. However, working up from the basics is a good way for people to see that more complex steps are just combinations of simpler things with some crossover. The existence of “rhythm” can be learned over time if it is not immediately integrated. Step Team members enjoy the physical and often aerobic work out.
The All State HBCU Showdown is one of many national stepping competitions that elevates this hundred year tradition of stepping, a complex performance involving synchronized, percussive movement, singing, speaking, chanting, dancing and drama, to the next level.