Multicultural student dance groups and the Step Afrika! dance company transformed 101 Thomas into a stage with engaging performances at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
The Center for the Performing Arts and the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Student Committee collaborated to showcase the student dancers and bring them into the spotlight. Nyla Holland (junior-political science), the executive director of the student committee, hosted the event.
The Caliente Dance Company kicked off the night with Latino rhythmic dances.
Next, several black and Latino fraternities and sororities — including the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the Lambda Sigma Upsilon fraternity and the Mu Sigma Upsilon sorority — performed step routines in front of an energetic and enthusiastic crowd.
Dark Storm Step Team was the last student performance. While most of the acts before the group consisted of one or two dancers, many dancers represented Dark Storm at the front of the classroom.
The step team engrossed the audience with its performance, and the dancers were met with a standing ovation by the crowd. Holland suggested that there be a final step off, prompting two dancers on Dark Storm to face off against each other in a dance battle.
Moriah Dorsey, the president of Dark Storm, said she believed that her team tried its best and described her fellow dancers as “amazing.”
“I hope our audience took away that we’re really passionate about what we do and a lot of people are joined into this,” Dorsey (sophomore-criminology) said.
Step Afrika! founder and executive director Brian Williams then introduced the highly anticipated Step Afrika! company as the final performance of the night.
Williams said Step Afrika! is the first professional company dedicated to traditional step uniform. The dance company, which was founded 25 years ago, is one of the largest African American dance companies in the world, according to Williams.
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Williams urged the students in the audience to take advantage of the $15 student tickets to see Step Afrika!’s world premiere of “Drumfolk” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31 in the Eisenhower Auditorium.
Step Afrika! then performed a preview of “Drumfolk.” Many audience members clapped along with the dancers and the room was filled with energy. When the group finished its performance, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation.
At the end of the evening, Holland said she was most proud of the effect the dance performances had on different people in the audience and how stepping brought them all together.
“It wasn’t just students, there were faculty, there were families here, people of all different backgrounds,” Holland said.
Student Shamim Nyakoojo said her favorite part of the show was Step Afrika!
Nyakoojo (freshman-global and international studies) used to step dance when she was younger, and said she liked seeing their “angry and aggressive” live performance.
Jamihl Braimah, the campus director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Student Committee, said he was more than satisfied with how the night turned out.
“The event came out beautiful, the people, the performers killed it. The representation by the [Divine Nine] on Penn State was what I was most happy about, because everybody came and everybody showed out,” Braimah (junior-energy engineering) said. “Step Afrika! just coming out with that few, like, seven minutes and performing was ridiculous.”
Braimah said he believes the audience connected with step dance as an art form.
“I feel like they kind of felt what step was really about and the whole dancing art form, and the passion that you put all into it,” he said. “Dance is more than dance, it’s a form of expression, it’s a form of storytelling, it’s how you show everybody, ‘I’m here.’”