Segments in this Video

Opening Titles & African Physicality as Expression (02:00)


One expert believes the need to express oneself through bodily movement lies at the heart of African culture. Because Africans were introduced to this country as slaves, physical movement became one of the few and strongest ways of expression.

Definition of Stepping (02:22)

Dancer Jacqui Malone defines stepping in terms of its synchronized movements, sharp rhythms, and verbal component. Black collegiate fraternities and sororities approach stepping through individual expression, team-building, and competition.

Origins of Stepping (00:54)

One expert traces stepping to slave dances and even further back to dances in Africa, placing stepping in a vast continuum of African and African-American culture.

Drums, Body Rhythm, & Slave Communication (03:25)

West Africans rely on tone and rhythm; slaves communicated using drums. When the Carolina Negro Act of 1740 outlawed their possession, slaves began producing sound and rhythm by patting their bodies in, for example, Patting Juba and Ring Shouts.

Influences (03:02)

Stepping finds its base in West Africa but reflects other influences like tap dancing, collegiate a cappella singing, military precision drills, and army chants.

Similarities Between Stepping & South African Gumboot Dance (02:44)

African-American stepping parallels South African gumboot stepping, which started in gold mines. While the two styles most likely developed independently, both are testaments to the kind of vitality that can exist even under oppression.

First Recorded Instance of Collegiate Stepping (00:58)

One historian dates the emergence of stepping to 1925 at Howard University's Greek "Hell-Week."

Basic Elements of Stepping (01:05)

In stepping, the hands and feet create percussion. Chants often make reference to fraternity and sorority tradition and values.

Four Major Performance Events (03:58)

The four traditional performance events of stepping include: a neophyte ceremony, a yard show, a step show, and a party stroll. Step shows involve competition and theatricality.

Pleasure of Performing in a Group (01:49)

Steppers describe their interest in and attachment to stepping, which includes the value of individual contribution to group dialogue. One group performs with innovative and crowd-pleasing stunts.

Evolution of Stepping (00:57)

Steppers discuss the evolution within the art form. Groups improve through competition and constantly push boundaries, making stepping a rapidly changing performing art.

Practice (00:46)

Students explain the rigorous rehearsals required to create a flawless routine.

Appeal of Stepping (01:43)

Students discuss the elements of stepping which draw them to it: creativity, entertainment, passion, energy. One group demonstrates these aspects on stage.

Step Afrika! USA: Bringing Step to Schools (01:29)

The director and co-founder of Step Afrika! USA describes the experience of teaching step to young people and the possibilities for step to accompany other educational platforms. He believes stepping provides African-Americans with a connection to their African roots.

Credits: Many Steps (01:13)

Credits: Many Steps

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Many Steps

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Stepping dates back to the early 20th century, when black veterans enrolled in colleges and, inspired by their military training, created a dance form based on precisely regimented movements. This program explores the origin and evolution of African-American step-dancing, weaving scholarly commentary about its cultural context with lively and exciting performance footage. (28 minutes)

Length: 29 minutes

Item#: BVL49798

Copyright date: ©2002

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“A comprehensive look at the art of stepping, providing a much needed historical explanation for one of the most misunderstood yet highly visible forms of self-expression. This documentary is a must see for all members of Black Greek lettered organizations.”  —Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, Albany State University  

“This fast-paced program would be of primary interest to college students and teenagers.”  —Booklist

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.

Not available to Home Video and Dealer customers.