“Bah, humbug!” seems to sum up most local dance troupes’ stance on the holiday season this year. The list of December performances includes a gender-bending flamenco festival and a modern dance tribute to space exploration. So it’s refreshing, by contrast, to see the local hoofers of Step Afrika! engage in a little old fashioned holiday profiteering.
Step Afrika!’s “Magical Musical Holiday Step Show” opened an 11-day run Wednesday at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. The troupe is dedicated to stepping, an athletic variance of tap dancing popular at America’s historically black colleges and universities, and for the second year in a row, the company is hauling out the holly and hosting a family-friendly dance party. The show is performed in the round, and theater decor doesn’t get more festive. Ornaments and snowflakes are projected onto all four walls, and snow-covered snare drums are tucked into each corner of the white dance floor, nestled in a miniature forest of teal and purple Christmas trees.
The dancing is all wrapped up in pretty packaging, too. Fans of the troupe may notice that the holiday show is pretty much a reprise of Step Afrika!’s annual spring show at the Atlas, but with more sequins. Well, that’s not quite fair; there are also two krumping polar bears, a penguin and a bit more audience participation. But most of the numbers were Step Afrika! standards, including “Going to a Go-Go,” “Tribute” and a girls-vs.-guys step challenge.
What the dancers did, they did well, particularly the syncopated ensemble sequences that found them crossing the floor in diagonals, moving to the rhythms created by the taps, claps and body slaps of the steppers a beat ahead. But Step Afrika! is also known for cleverly weaving stepping into narrative routines, and it would be fun to see the troupe get creative. The “12 Steps of Christmas,” “Step-Up on the Housetop” and any riff on the “Nutcracker” are a few suggestions.
DJ Frosty the Snowman was in the house. Surely he had the magic in his hat to make the turntables go thumpety thump thump. Maybe if he’s back again. Next year.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.