If I had any doubts that Step Afrika! and the young, all-male step team from Greenbelt (Md.), Dem Raider Boyz (DRB) Step Squad, could pull off a 90-minute performance, without intermission, and maintain my undivided attention, those concerns would be quickly dashed.
The two step groups brought creativity, dance prowess, pulsating precision and seamless teamwork to the stage on Sunday, Jan. 20 at the Music Center at Strathmore, much to the delight of a sold-out audience.
In many ways, I felt myself taken back to my days as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan where I also learned the art of stepping as a pledge and then brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. And I can attest that while stepping may appear to be simple to do with movements that take little or no thought, preparation or practice, such notions couldn’t be further from the truth.
You could see the sweat pouring off of the dancers and their muscles stretching to complete the actions as they moved in perfect synchronization and machine-like accuracy the way the inner gears of a grandfather clock engage with one another. As for Step Afrika!, they were particularly outstanding in two of my favorite pieces, “Umngane,” kept on track by a drummer of unbelievable ability and “The Wade Suite,” hauntingly evocative of Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations,” albeit with the flair and intricacies of stepping.
From the opening act, DRB, who made fun of the cable channel Netflix with their own creative and high-energy version of a different “channel,” “Stepflix,” to the featured performers for the evening, each step sequence brought with it a theme, a message or a story that was well-conceived and entertaining.
I even felt like bounding up the stairs, rushing from behind the curtains and joining those brothers and sisters into step history. Thank goodness I just as quickly came to my senses.
From start to finish, the performances were stellar, sensational and sizzling.
I cannot wait for the next installment.
Hats off to C. Brian Williams, Mfoniso Akpan and those who train and mentor the young men of DRB.