Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Step Afrika Performs in Beach Meets West

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Step Afrika Performs in Beach Meets West

Article excerpt

Byline: TAMARA McCLARAN

The dancers use their bodies as instruments. Their intricate kicks, stomps and rhythms mixed with spoken words have been described as a "single-serving opera" that merges music, dance and vocals.

The rhythmic performance is an art form called stepping, a unique form of dance based in African traditions. It grew from the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s.

This style of dance is performed by Step Afrika, a professional dance company with a mission to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition's role as an educational tool.

"Stepping is not the kind of thing you study in a dance studio," said Jakari Sherman, artistic director for Step Afrika. "It's a visual performance because we dance, yet we're making music at the same time."

The Beaches Fine Arts Series will present Step Afrika as its annual Beach Meets West performance on Sunday at the University of North Florida Lazzara Performance Hall. The free performance begins at 4 p.m. Doors open 45 minutes prior to the concert and seating is first come, first served.

This is the only Beaches Fine Arts Series performance this season at UNF instead of the series' usual location at St. Paul's by the Sea Episcopal Church in Jacksonville Beach. The Beach Meets West performance is an annual offering established five years ago to introduce the greater Jacksonville area to the series' free concerts.

The UNF venue is ideally suited for Step Afrika, which frequently performs at colleges and universities. The company's rhythmic performance highlights the physicality and history of stepping while introducing the concepts of teamwork, discipline and commitment.

"The audience will find a lot of excitement in the music we produce," Sherman said. …

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