Strathmore presents free virtual show ‘Step Xplosion’ by Step Afrika!

WTOPs Jason Fraley previews 'Step Xplosion' by Step Afrika! (Part 1)

Step Afrika! and Strathmore are partnering for a dynamite dance presentation.

A free performance of “Step Xplosion” streams online this Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“Step Afrika! has been in D.C. for over 27 years,” Founder C. Brian Williams told WTOP. “We are Washington D.C.’s largest African-American arts organization and we’ve been performing at the Strathmore for the past 10 years. It’s a great partnership.”

That company hit a major road block during this past year of pandemic life.

“When the pandemic yet, we were actually in the middle of a successful Broadway run, performing for three weeks in New York City,” Williams said. “We were doing what we do best, on stage, performing for sold-out audiences, then the lights just went down on Broadway. … Once we figured out how to keep creating, we just went all in.”

The result is a 30-minute virtual presentation on Facebook and YouTube.

“It’s a virtual celebration of stepping, the art form created by African-American fraternities and sororities,” Williams said. “The body becomes a percussion instrument. The art form is about 100 years old in American culture. If you’ve never seen it, this is the perfect chance to check it out, because we have some great guests from throughout the region.”

That includes youth team Dem Raider Boyz and Baltimore beatboxer Black Root.

“This performance was filmed entirely on the grounds both inside and outside Strathmore,” Williams said. “Strathmore has this amazing 16-acre campus with different venues and beautiful grounds, so we explored those grounds and found some great spaces for us to shoot the performance. Then we were allowed to go inside Strathmore, masked up.”

The goal is not only to entertain, but to support the artist community.

“It’s been a tough year for artists,” Williams said. “We have decided to really hunker down and create anyway. We’ve had to embrace the digital platform. … Artists want to work and need to work, so Step Afrika! has centered around artists, kept them employed and provided health insurance, so they can stay creating and serving the community.”

They’ve also maintained their robust online education programs.

“We’ve served well over 80,000 virtually with our digital programs,” Williams said.

It all comes against the backdrop of our nation’s racial reckoning.

“This moment is forcing the country and everyone in it to learn about their fellow citizens,” Williams said. “Step Afrika! has been creating works that speak to African-American culture and tells stories that many of us don’t know and didn’t learn in our history books.”

That includes their January piece “No Justice, No Peace” in honor of Black Lives Matter.

“An artistic tribute to that multiracial coalition of young people who marched on behalf of equity and structural correction,” Williams said. “For your audience that doesn’t know a lot about stepping or the culture that created it, this performance on Wednesday night is a great introduction [and] a chance to understand your neighbors.”

Register to watch for free here.

WTOPs Jason Fraley previews 'Step Xplosion' by Step Afrika! (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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