Step Afrika!, the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African-American fraternities and sororities, African traditional dance, and influences from various other dance and art forms.
The Washington, D.C., troupe, which will perform the world premiere of Drumfolk at Penn State, integrates songs, storytelling, humor, and audience participation into its productions. Drumfolk is an exploration of the drum as an instrument of community, resilience, and determination. The Negro Act of 1740, a reaction to the Stono Rebellion of 1739 in South Carolina, took away from enslaved Africans the rights to assemble, read, and use drums. In response, they internalized the rhythm of the drum and began to use their bodies as percussive instruments.
Drumfolk will feature Step Afrika!’s first presentation of traditional masked dances from West Africa; a choreographic investigation of the ring shout, a 200-plus-year-old African-American percussive dance rarely seen on American stages; and a contemporary work exploring the ways the drum was reclaimed through mediums such as stepping and vocal percussion.
After the performance, dancers will engage in a discussion with audience members.