Step Afrika! takes the stage at Marietta College

Photo by Doug Loyer Talented Step Afrika drummers invited children onto the stage.

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MARIETTA — An eye-catching, toe-tapping, hand-clapping, attention-getting performance by Step Afrika, a professional dance company from Washington, D.C., was presented Sunday at the Gathering Place on the campus of Marietta College.

The 75-minute high-energy, high-impact free performance not only entertained, it helped educate the audience about stepping and the South African culture.

Step Afrika’s mission is to promote an appreciation for stepping and its use as an educational, motivational and healthy tool for young people. They have been successful with that mission through arts education activities, cultural exchange programs and performances world-wide. Over the past 23 years Step Afrika has grown to become one of the top 10 African American dance companies in the country and is also Washington, D.C.’s largest African American arts organization.

Stepping comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities. The art form of stepping is an important part of America’s cultural and artistic heritage. Stepping uses the body as an instrument to create sounds and rhythms by using a combination of footsteps, claps and vocal sounds.

Photo by Doug Loyer A couple of Step Afrika step dancers amazed the audience.

Every year, Step Afrika performs in 10 countries for more than 50,000 people and touches 23,000 youth through its performances and arts education programs.

“We are super excited to be here in Marietta,” said Mfon Akpan, Step Afrika Artistic Director. “We are Step Afrika, a professional dance company based in Washington, D.C. We are dedicated to the art form stepping. We love to share our culture and share the preservation and advancement of stepping and also like to share its origin.”

Akpan explained that Sunday they had seven performers, but have 16 dancers total. The other half of the group is also out doing shows. They get to travel and see all parts of the U.S.

“We’ve been to South Africa and most recently, Jordan,” said Akpan. “Being able to experience different cultures and exchange energy and ideas is really important because it helps bring communities together.”

“This is absolutely fantastic,” said MC President William Rudd, “It brings a whole new form of entertainment to Marietta College. It also gave us chance to show off our new sound system here at the Gathering Place.”

Photo by Doug Loyer Step Afrika entertains with its step dancing at Marietta College on Sunday.

Helping to organize the event was Katie Simms, Assistant Director of 4th Street Housing which is part of the division of Student Life at Marietta College.

“We went to a conference in the fall and Step Afrika really impressed us there,” said Simms. “We wanted to bring them here. They are not only entertaining, they are educational and that was my main goal.”

Simms said Step Afrika builds different pieces into its entertaining act to educate people to know about the culture of South Africa.

“I can’t say enough about the performance. I cried, it was that good,” said Donna Briggs of Parkersburg. “Phenomenal talent, each individual person has such a great personality. They were funny, they were serious … they were really, really good.”

Pat Lang, of Marietta, said he really enjoyed the show and was impressed with how talented they were.

“I thought the performance was absolutely wonderful,” said Michelle Wilson, of Athens. “A national caliber performance here in Marietta, it’s wonderful. I wasn’t really sure what to expect today, but it was fantastic.”

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