With “Drumfolk,” Step Afrika! will give Minnesota audiences a rich, rhythmic. reverberating Black history lessons through a performance combining dance, drums, and movement.
The Step Afrika! troupe will take the stage at Northrop Auditorium at the Twin Cities University of Minnesota campus for three upcoming experiences, with student/educator morning matinees on Oct. 12-13 and an evening performance on Oct. 13.
The high-energy performances will recreate the little-known story of how enslaved Africans in South Carolina used drums to start a revolt in 1739. When the Africans lost the right to use their drums, the beats found their way into the body of the people, the Drumfolk. That led to the historic development of distinct performance traditions like ring shout, tap, and stepping.
“The stories they tell are about our history as Americans and how that shows up in dance, music, and culture. They tell the story in an important, respectful, joyful, and exuberant way,” said Kristen Brogdon, director of artistic and community programs at Northrop Auditorium.
Founded in 1994, Step Afrika! became the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. The performances thrill with a blend of percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities combined with traditional African and contemporary dance.
“The history reflected in this show is being rewritten out of the curriculum in the region where the history took place. A lot of us didn’t learn about these events in school,” Brogdon said. “Learning through experiences in the theater opens people up in new ways and deepens the understanding in your heart and your body.”
Based in Washington, D.C., Step Afrika! has spread the gospel of step culture worldwide, touring more than 60 countries. The group performed for President Barack Obama’s Black History Month Reception in 2016. Earlier this year, Step Afrika! was among the celebrated Black performers to join the President and First Lady for the Juneteenth Celebration at the White House.
Step Afrika! dancers are committed to community engagement. While in the Twin Cities, they will visit North High School in Minneapolis and Prodeo Academy in Columbia Heights. They will offer a free stepping workshop for people of all abilities and skills in the auditorium of Prodeo Academy on October 9.
The performances promise an exhilarating and eye-popping night out for those in attendance.
“People in the audience will emerge a little different than when they came in and take their seats,” promised Brogdon. “They will feel the vibrations in their bodies. Minnesota audiences tend to be beautifully polite and attentive. With Step Afrika!, there will be lots of back-and-forth between the stage and the audience. The entire theater filled with energy.”
Step Afrika! will offer a performance of “Drumfolk” on Oct 13 at 7:30 p.m., and student matinees on Oct. 12 and Oct. 13 at 10:30 a.m. at Northrop Auditorium/U of M Twin Cities campus, located at 84 Church St. S.E. in Minneapolis.
Step By Step: An Intro to Stepping Introductory Workshop takes place on Monday, Oct. 9, at 6:30 p.m., at Prodeo Academy, 141 University Ave. N.E. in Columbia Heights. All are welcome; registration is required. For tickets and information, visit www.stepafrika.org/events/drumfolk-at-northrops-carlson-family-stage-minneapolis-mn or www.northrop.umn.edu/events/step-afrika-2023.