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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2014  04:15:27 PM

Stepping contest highlight of Greek Fest

Email   Print   Share By Michael Heckman, Sentinel Staff
January 29, 2009 | Leisure
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Area high school students were challenged to “step up” Sunday during Greek Fest, but the annual step dance sponsors wanted more than just dazzling footwork.

They also wanted to encourage the students to pursue a higher education and become involved in their communities.

Between noon and about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, a crowd that varied from about 500 to more than 1,000 people watched high school and college students and graduate members of black college sororities and fraternities stomp the stage at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

A montage of musical styles ranging from hip-hop to rap was sung by aspiring recording artists, providing a melodic overlay to the steppers’ staccato beat.

Sunday’s step contest evoked memories of “house” dancing , also known as “Jacking,” said Sgt. 1st Class Darrian Turley, a member of the 89th Military Police Brigade.

He attended with his, wife, Mendy, three-month-old Nizer, and Trinity, 3.

The Family was waiting for a performance by Turley’s son, Randy, a senior at Shoemaker High School.

“He’s been steppin’ since elementary school,” Darrian said.

Comparing step with dances more popular when he was a teenager, like disco, Darrian said, “I think the choreography is more difficult than we had to do. We just danced. It takes a lot of planning and practice to get it right.”

Presenting a dance skit that might have been titled “Rescue Me,” Harker Heights Step Team students dressed in white clinical smocks were selected over a step team from Shoemaker High School.

The Greywolves’ steppers turned out in predominantly yellow-and black outfits to present a skit combining elements of gymnastics, a military drill and tap dancing, dressed in hip attire that would have been appropriate in a 50s coffee house, a 60s battle of the bands or a 21st Century stomp dance.

A panel of judges selected winners based upon criteria including originality, crowd reaction, enthusiasm, complexity and family values.

Scenes from “The Crocodile Hunter” inspired the University of Houston step team.

“It was something I’d never seen done in a step show before,” said Godwin Ogiamiee, of Baton Rouge, La. He helped develop the team’s dance theme and choreography.

His fraternity brother, Efosa Ogbeide, of Austin, another member of the Zeta Zeta Step Team, said the group would “Reinvest it in the step team and maybe celebrate a little,” if his team won the $1,000 first-place award for college teams.

They won the $500 prize for second place.

First place went to the Phi Beta Sigma step team, also from the University of Houston.

A stepper since the eighth grade, Ogbeide said in addition to having a good time his motivation is “Just trying to make it back to our roots.”

African-American stepping has deep roots.

They include competitive schoolyard songs and dance rituals practiced by historically black fraternities and sororities, beginning in the mid-1900s.

Although it includes a mixture of spoken words and hand claps, the dance’s emphasis on footsteps reflects origins that include the Welly “gumboot” dance and the stage routines of popular rhythm and blues groups such as the Temptations and The Four Tops.

In South Africa Wellington boots often were worn by black gold miners, whose routines often parodied the officers and guards who controlled the mines.

In the United States, students at historically black colleges celebrated a “crossing over” into the membership of their respective fraternal organizations.

Stepping was further popularized by member colleges of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, sometimes called the “Divine Nine,” which perform at local and national competitions.

In the movies, stepping has been featured in films such as “School Daze” (1988), “Drumlline” (2002) and “Stomp the Yard” (2007).

In addition to the step competition, step show vendors provided health information, facts about college scholarships and enrollment, photography and inflated bounce games for children.

According to Stephanie Pelton-Miller, former president of the Mu Theta Omega Chapter of show sponsor Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and step show co-chair, the sorority is involved in a variety of community support activities.

“We raise $8,000 a year for scholarships at any Killeen, Belton Temple or Copperas Cove high school. All the step teams have completed college and our goal is to give back so other people can attend college.”

Pelton-Miller said Alpha Kappa Alpha was established in 1908.

The Mu Theta Omega Chapter of AKA was founded in 1977 and is a graduate chapter with members from Killeen, Fort Hood Harker Heights, Belton and Copperas Cove.

Parodying a phrase long associated with the AKA sorority, as he took the stage, MC Mookie Durant crooned, “I am a phenomenal woman.”

“Seriously,” Durant added, “We got some of the high school young people up in here that going to be the future.”

In addition to the University of Houston, other teams included the Delta Alumni chapter from Austin and Zeta Phi Beta from Texas A & M, Pelton-Miller said.

The $1,000 prize in the women’s division was awarded to the Delta Sigma Theta alumnae step team from Austin.

In addition to stepping, Pelton-Miller said the Mu Theta Omega Chapter also gives back to the community through a mentoring program, donations of toys and toiletries to area shelters, supporting roadside clean-ups and contributions to nonprofit and charitable organizations such as the Killeen and Temple Free clinics, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Diabetes Association and the Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association.

Another event to support area talent will be held from 2-5 p.m. March 7 at Howze Auditorium on Fort Hood.

Prizes will range from $400 for first place to $300 for second place and $200 for third place.

According to Jerome Blackman, keeper of the peace for the sponsoring Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., competition will be held in following categories: instrument music , including classical, popular and contemporary; vocal music; drama; and dance, including ballet, creative, modern or tap.

Contestants must be high school students from 9-12th grade in the Killeen, Copperas Cove, Belton or Temple school districts.

The talent hunt committee has the option of inviting the first-place winner to compete at the district level completion April 10 in Shreveport, La.

If you missed the step show Sunday, it can be seen by tuning into Time Warner’s Central Texas on Demand digital channel 200.
 
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