Daily Archives: February 10, 2020

Step Africa! Rhythmical History of Resistance

By Aejin Shin.

I watched an African-American drumfolk performance ‘Step Africa!’ on February 7, 2020 at the Colwell Playhouse. Actually, I knew little about American history before watching this performance. I was born and educated in Korea and just a month has passed since I came to America. So, I just expected that this drumfolk performance would be a fun and interesting one.

People waiting for the beginning of the performance

However, the performance was quite different from what I had expected. Yes, the rhythm at the beginning was exciting and several performers danced like one body. Colorful choreography caught my eyes. They danced and sang to the beat, which made me feel like dancing and singing together in between. But the deep sense of struggle hidden in their jubilant rhythm was something I had not expected. I came back home and studied more about American history. Here’s what I’ve found.

Before starting the show

History behind ‘Step Africa!’

On September 1739, the largest slave revolt in U.S. history took place near the Stono River. The slaves left no clues as to why or how they revolted. The message of the rebellion is told only by  white men who subdued the slaves. However, you can also find interesting features on that record. The drumbeat played a very central role in the revolt. Plantation farm owners were afraid of the drumbeat even after the riot was quelled. So, they made a bill that would ban slaves from using drums in 1740. But the slaves did not give in to them. They made rhythms by using their bodies and continued the African spirit in their own way. My country, Korea, also has a tragic history of being forcibly occupied by Japan. Many were brutally sacrificed, but my forefathers sublimated their suffering to satire and humor in order not to lose the soul of the nation. Because we share a similar history, I could sympathize with the stories in the performance.

Explanations about the founders of the Colwell Playhouse

Impressive Points of the Performance

The performance recounted the events of 1739. The performers used their hands and feet to create rhythms and sang in loud voices. The most impressive thing was that they communicated with the audience and made it a part of the performance. They skillfully elicited a favorable response, and the audience was willing to be part of the performance. I’m not sure if they intended this point, but this seemed to overlap with the images of black slaves who joined the rebels through the drumming in 1739. Also, the most important significance of the performance is that it revealed the history of the U.S that has been overshadowed. We have not learned about many people who fought bravely against injustice. The performance reminds us of many people who fought for a free America in a smart way – through fun, exciting rhythms. I strongly recommend going to this concert!

Step Afrika! Performs: Drumfolk

The cast of Step Afrika! delivered a powerful performance that made the audience feel the highs and lows of black history in America. Their bodies were the instruments as they sang, stomped, clapped, flipped, and danced their way into our hearts.
-By Daniel Holley

The cast wraps up their performance to a standing ovation.
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Step Africa! : Drumfolk, a fine art portraying Resilience, and Reclamation

February 7, 2020 was a perfect Friday night at the Colwell Playhouse in Kranner Center for Performing Arts. A spectacular performance entitled “ Step Afrika ! : Drumfolk” shared the story that took place when South Carolina passed The Negro Act of 1740.

Written by Weon Taek Na

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Resistance, Freedom, and Community

By Veronica Y. Gonzalez
Stage before show starts
Event Program
Ticket and crowded theater

I attended Step Afrika! on February 7, 2020 at The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. The performance definitely built a strong sense of community. There were many parts where they danced in unison perfectly. They were all doing the exact same movement at the same exact time. It was unbelievable. I believe moving in ripples is a stronger sense of unity than moving in unison. Knowing when the person before you is going and then moving at the right time is such a hard thing to do. Especially when there are like 7 people ahead of you and you have to know exactly when each of them moves. It was like their minds were connected and they were communicating with each other the whole time.

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A Standing Ovation to “Drumfolk”

On February 7, 2020 at 7:30pm, the Colwell Playhouse in the Kranner Center for the Performing Arts Presented a spectacular performance entitled “ Step Afrika ! : Drumfolk”. This performance brought about expression through body movements, stepping to be more specific, when drums were taken away from African Americans through a legislative law in America in 1740.

Written by Lydia Amezcua-Ramirez

A few minutes before the performance began, I noticed that my ticket matched the seats and thought “wow this would be a cool shot” along with the ominous background of a single spotlight.

History of the Drum

For African Americans, the drum symbolized community, resilience, and determination throughout history in America. When that instrument of theirs was banned, they decided to use their bodies as a means to produce another form of music to express their messages. In the performance, the dancers would chant “they took away our drums..but they could not stop the beat”, and would use their body movements to illustrate that. This showed the idea of freedom and resistance as soon as they began to chant that and continued to express themselves in other ways possible.

Dance as an instrument

The dancers would conduct movements with their bodies using heavy stepping, tapping, clapping, and more which brought the message across that they would not be defeated, showing defiance against the legislation and their determination to continue creating rhythm. The dances that were performed were strongly executed which to me proved the confidence that all dancers should have to deliver their performance well.

The Dancers using stepping as strong indicators of rhythmical music.

As shown in the picture above, the dancers use exaggerated arm and leg movements to showcase the severity and the magnitude of their message through dance. The dancers worked together to bring across a strong performance in each act, staying on cue with one another in terms of body movement and facial expression. This is an example of the dancers using their bodies as instruments because they were making sounds using different parts of their bodies.

A standing ovation from everyone in the audience. What a great feeling it must have been for the performers!

At the very end of the performance a sense of community was shown throughout the audience. Everyone from the audience gradually stood up to give the performers the standing ovation that they truly deserved for their amazing performance. Not only this, but throughout the performance the performers would ask one side of the audience to clap along with their hands and the other side of the audience would be asked to clap too, but in a distinct rhythm. A standing ovation from everyone was well deserved to the performers who claimed it was only their third time performing. This was a performance that everyone must see if they get the chance to because I know I got chills since the very beginning of it.

Step Africa! : Drumfolk, a Story About Freedom.

written by Zeying Lang

Flashing back to the story happened in 1739, and following the fantastic dance crew to unveil the history behind contemporary African culture. To experience, to touch, their bravery, and the hereditary beats…

Step Africa!: Drumfolk. https://krannertcenter.com/events/step-afrika-drumfolk
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“Clap, snap, and stamp”– the pounding of the Drumfolk

Drumfolk is a highly impressive performance that brought by Step Afrika, the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of steeping. Performers will use their own bodies as an instrument to create their own beat. The Drumfolk was performed on February 6th at Colwell Playhouse

Written by Bingchen Li

Bodies as instruments

Drumfolk brought the spirit and energy to everyone in the show. The reason why performers use their own bodies as an instrument is because of the banning of the drum in 1740. We all know that we have a really dark and grieved history back to that uncivilized time. African Americans cannot use drums because of discrimination. However, as Dr. David said “They took the drums away… but they could not stop the beat.” Even they physically could not play the drum, but they could steeping!

Fabulous stage setting before the performance started
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Step Afrika! Stepping Into Resistance, Resilience, and Reclamation

What a perfect Friday night for a history major with a concentration in African American studies. Drumfolk shares the story that takes us back to when South Carolina passed The Negro Act of 1740 which would change the life of African Americans forever. The Negro Act prohibited slaves from reading, moving freely, gathering in groups, growing their own food, and even having their own instruments. However, Drumfolk showed the audience that they can take away the drums but they cannot stop the beat.

Before the performance that would that would showcase resistance, resilience, and reclamation.
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Revitalizing Black Movements in History: “Drumfolk”

The performers of Step Afrika! gave an unforgettable performance that allowed the audience to reflect on the history of America through the cultural significance of the beat.

Written by Grace Chen

An excited audience waiting for the performance to begin.

Step Afrika performed their new show Drumfolk on Friday, February 7th at the Colwell Playhouse in the Krannert Center of Performing Arts. The performers captured the attention of the audience with its exciting beats and eye-catching dance moves. They also told the history of black Americans and the fight for their rights.

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