Stepping into Homecoming Weekend: a look inside UD’s fall performance
Thursday evening, a packed Mitchell Hall emanated with cheers, stomps and claps as audience members were able to catch a glimpse of the university’s Homecoming Step Show.
Each year, the university’s multicultural Greek life organizations kick off Homecoming weekend with a step show. The performance attracts both students and alumni as they scramble to purchase tickets before the show is sold out.
Senior Alpha Phi Alpha member and step show participant Ryan Broussard defines step as “making a rhythm with your body in a synchronized motion, usually to tell a story.”
Structurally, the Homecoming Step Show is set up so that different fraternities and sororities compete for a championship title. Broussard says that while all organizations are different, many tend to have a ‘Step Master’ who is essentially the captain of the team.
According to Broussard, strolling, a dance form derived from stepping, is a synchronized dance with a line movement that is set to music. Stepping, however, requires dancers to make the rhythm and beats with their own bodies and no background track.
Stepping originates from slaves in South African mines. Obichukwu Maduka-Ugwu, a senior and the president of the Greek Multicultural Greek Congress explains that stepping is an art form that originated from Gumbu dancing.
“Gumbu dancing originated from South Africa in the mines. When they [slaves] were not allowed to communicate with each other, they would communicate using instrumentation: the clap of their hands, the clap of their boots and the stomping of their feet,” Maduka-Ugwu says. “That translated into an art form later on.”
It was not until the 1970s that stepping as it is known today began to take form. It became a popular activity within African-American Greek life, and members became invested in the performance aspect of stepping and organizing shows complete with theatrics, synchronicity and special effects.
For each Greek life member that participates in the Homecoming Step Show, their stories of involvement are different. However, many of them echo an appreciation and fascination for the art form and the dedication of the steppers.
“It seemed fun and productive. When I first watched it, I was like, ‘I want to do it,’” junior Kappa Alpha Psi member Derrick Hunter says. “There aren’t many multicultural events that happen because UD’s a predominantly white institution. Culturally, it’s like a family. It gives you chance to meet people. It brings good spirit and positive energy.”
While many steppers discovered their interest in the artform during college, Maduka-Ugwu discovered his passion as a young teenager.
“My cousins, who were members of a fraternity, I started learning from them. That was sometime when I was, like, 15,” Maduka-Ugwu says.
Maduka-Ugwu has been competing on a showcase level with his fraternity since his sophomore year of college. For the past two years, however, Maduka-Ugwu has served as more than just a stepper, he has also been a member of the Executive Board. During his time as both a stepper and Executive Board member, Maduka-Ugwu says that he is most impressed by the production level of many Greek life organizations’ performances.
“You never expect people who are just in college doing a whole bunch of other things to put that much time and effort into something,” Maduka-Ugwu says. “This is something you could take to Broadway and stages across the world and it would still wow people.”
Maduka-Ugwu also notes that the event has huge cultural significance.
“Stepping is a part of African-American culture,” Maduka-Ugwu says. “It’s something that reminds you how far people have come, especially people of a different background, in terms of their lives in this country. That feeling of being in this environment is a feeling of pride, progression, understanding and togetherness, and those things cannot be replaced.”