The Art of Stepping

A short history of the foundations of stepping in America.

Known as the oldest instrument in the world, the drum has been used for centuries by Africans as a means celebration, ceremony and communication.  When West Africans were brought to the Americas as slaves in the 1600s and 1700s, they continued to use the drums as a form of communication, sending coded rhythmic messages Europeans could not understand across long distances as a tool to plan rebellions.   When the slaveholders recognized the power of the talking drum, they enacted a ban, making it illegal for African slaves to play or possess drums.

But African rhythmic sensibility would not die, nor would it be suppressed.  They used whatever they found to keep rhythm; spoons, washboards, furniture … and their bodies.  The percussion played on through their stomps, shouts, foot taps and shuffles.  Their feet became the bass drum.  Their chests and thighs became the tenors and snares.  And the hands claps became the high hats.  The voice filled in the syncopated rhythms with grunts and moans.  The body became the drum!  The ban on drums spawned creativity in Africans in America which birthed early forms of tap dance, hambone, patting juba, ring shout, buck dance, and of course, Stepping.

Stepping, a category of body percussion, is hailed as one of the most exciting dance forms created by Americans in the 20th century.  Incorporating elements such as clapping, tapping, marching, military drills, school yard games, song, dance and acrobatics, this polyrhythmic, percussive art form was first developed by African-American fraternities and sororities to promote unity among the members of their organizations.

Today, Stepping is used in educational settings to develop and promote teamwork, discipline, confidence, music appreciation and physical well-being.   Stepping is one descendant of the creativity which blossomed out of the oppression of slavery.  It is a living testament to the endurance of culture and the resiliency of the human spirit.

Molodi Founders Jason, Kalhid and Anwan demonstrate Stepping with a playful polyrhythm in Las Vegas.
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The Art of Stepping
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The Art of Stepping
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What is Stepping? How is it done? Molodi is an extreme body percussion group using the American art of Stepping to energize audiences and educate classrooms.
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