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United in One Rhythm: Tips on Initializing Step Team Routines

Step Team Routines
A step team refers to a form of dancing with its roots in African-American culture. Modern groups have people from diverse backgrounds, which make it all the more fun. Step in to know more about them.
Medha Godbole
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2018
Group Dancing
It is one of those things that is a thread between African-American culture and African dance. Any guesses? Well, it is the stepping or step dancing. Stepping refers to a dance form where the entire body of the dancer is a tool for coming up with complex rhythms and sounds. This is done by a mixture of footsteps, chants, and claps. It is normally performed by groups of 3 or more and is mostly in arrangements that are akin to military formation.

Step dancing has its roots in 'gumboot' dances of South Africa. In the USA, it became popular around the 1940s, and then it gained in popularity. Now for those who are a part of a stepping or step dance team, they have certain routines. This article will deal with exactly that!

Learn Step Team Routines
Two things are very important which should be kept in mind. They are rhythm and percussion. The moves though, vary as per the routine, but these 2 things are never compromised on. The most basic steps or moves are clapping, slapping the body in specific areas like chest, arms, and thighs or even on the floor. In addition to that, a number of percussive sounds are made.

What is amazing in this whole thing is that the boot-stomping on the floor works as a bass-drum like background and the chants work as a message or a bit of a melody to the musical composition. To learn step team routine, you of course need athleticism, but a sense of musical dynamics too is very important. Likewise, for beginners it may include simple clapping or stomping movements and then graduate to complex movements or a combination of movements, or may be even props.

Normally, these routines start with a sort of a call or indication which tells the participants to brace themselves as the routine is going to start. The new age ones have videos, PowerPoint presentations and background props to enhance the story line the team is trying to portray. In latter stages of learning, props like cane and crisp military style movements give the required zing to the performance. In addition to all this, this drill and dancing is also inspired from hip hop dancing as well as swing dance, so some movements in stepping may resemble ones in hip hop and swing dance.

Learn Step Team Routines
'Umoja', the Swahili word for unity is the underlying concept which is celebrated through this precise, close-order drill and dancing accompanied by chanting. Here are some types and styles of chants involved in it.

These chants are meant especially to portray the good qualities of those who are performing.

Oral Tradition
Apart from the rhetoric on the current social scenario, chants also give a kind of an oral history of important people and events.

As the name suggests, these chants are particularly meant for insulting the members of the other team, as a whole or an individual.

Structure with Rhythm
Chants, many times, comprise poetic structures, rhymes and onomatopoeia for making the percussion and movements stronger simultaneously with chanting.

The key to having catchy chants and rhythms is to keep them short and crisp. For instance something like "Whatcha gotta say?" (stomp) "Whatcha gotta say?" (stomp) This can be included if you are learning those comparatively easy routines.

This may have a context of challenging the other team or perhaps telling them that this is what we do, what are you going to say about this and so on. Or may be you can have something on the lines of "Say hey, hey, boom-a-shaka-boom-a-shaka, hey, hey, boom-a-shaka-boom-a-shaka" (stomp feet and clap thighs and hands on the boom-a-shaka phrases). You can find a lot of these online but it is good to come up with your own lines and give credit to the cultural influence behind this dance form. Although it was initially done by African-Americans, now people from various backgrounds do this dance form.

All in all, step routines are a great way to be physically active and develop a sense of camaraderie and as the word 'umoja' reflects unity amongst the group doing this. Inculcating this aspect in your personality can go a long way in making you a successful person in whatever you might do!

So what are you waiting for? Step on!
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