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Alpha fraternity showcases step at Shryock (VIDEO)

By Tyra Wooten

Heavy breathing and dripping sweat were all part of perfecting every clap and foot stomp as dancers from Greek organizations in the region visited SIUC for an annual showcase of stepping.

Step, a form of dance born in African-American communities, uses movements, words and sounds to communicate pride and emotion. Its choreography originates from African foot dances, hip hop and break dancing.

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Alpha Phi Alpha, the first fraternity established for African-American men, hosted its annual Step Show on Friday night at Shryock Auditorium. The event was open to fraternities and dance teams in the region.

“The Alphas have been doing this step show for about a decade now,” said SIU graduate Allen Shelton, one of the event’s organizers. “It’s a huge tradition for SIU.”

Cameron Robinson, a senior and member of Alpha Phi Alpha, said the annual event showcases SIUC homecoming spirit of their fraternity.

“Stepping is a part of being black and Greek,” Robinson said.

Throughout the night, the Alphas, Sigmas, Omegas, Kappas, AKAs, Deltas and Zetas showcased choreographed performances. As the night continued on, dancers pounded the floorboards with their feet, smacking hands against their bodies to form the beat.

“Sigmas step not only for entertainment, but to connect with the community,” said Luke James, a graduate student in kinesiology.

Members of the St. Louis-based not-for-profit organization Gentlemen of Vision Rites of Passage Enterprises perform Friday, Oct. 21, 2016, during SIU's Step Show in Shryock Auditorium. The group aims to prepare disadvantaged males for high education or trade. (Sloan Marion | @SketchingBear)

James said stepping is a deep tradition to the Sigmas that has been passed down for generations.

Delta Sigma Theta is a sorority dedicated to public service with an emphasis on programs within the African-American community.

SIU graduate Taylor Johnson, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, said stepping is a way for the Deltas to compete in dancing, which brings people together.

“It’s such a beautiful thing,” Johnson said.

Aside from Greek organizations, an all-male step team from St. Louis called Gentlemen of Vision drew a large reaction from the crowd thanks to their precision and facial expressions.

The organization, an award-winning after-school program in Greater St. Louis, promotes counseling, academics, mentoring and programs for young males. It was recently featured in a PBS documentary.

Joseph Hurd, a senior from Riverview Gardens High School, said the team members spend about nine hours each week to prepare for competitions.

“We work hard and step hard,” Hurd said, adding that the team enjoys coming to SIUC because they receive a warm welcome.

As he returned to Carbondale for the show, Shelton said it felt amazing to come back and be a part of the tradition.

“It represents us in a positive way and allows us to show how passionate we are,” Shelton said.

Staff writer Tyra Wooten can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @twootenDE.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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The student news site of Southern Illinois University