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Wednesday, February 14, 2001 A Publication of the Newspeak Association Volume No. 66, Issue 5

Front Page
-Entrepreneurship: Venture Forum involves all
-Doctor inadvertently invents orgasm machine
-Phi Kappa Theta Hosts Alumni Day
-Avocado products recalled due to bacteria contamination threat

News
-News Headlines
-Financial aid for the 2001-2002 academic year
-"Namesake Designs and Geometric Expressions" on display in Gordon Library
-Police Log

Opinions
-Media violence isn't the problem after all
-Radicalism only hurts the environmental cause
-The Pit
-The Little Things
-Philler (external link)

Letters to the Editor
-Soft money, soft politicians

International House
-Indian Students Organization organizes earthquake relief fund raising drive

Arts & Entertainment
-"The Love of Don Perlimplin for Belisa in his Garden" is a magical experience
-The Goat Head... Where is it?
-Anime overly violent?
-An undying love…for videogames
-"Put your hands together": WPI Step Team
-Guerilla Improv: Five Questions with Chad Pytel
-Love@wpi.edu: Survey shows truth on WPI Dating
-Valentine's Day Traditions Continue Despite Mysterious Origins

Announcements
-Club Corner
-Crimson Clipboard

Sports
-Women's basketball edges MIT in overtime on the road
-Wrestling team rolls with another upset
-Score Board
-Upcoming Contests

"Put your hands together": WPI Step Team


by Joseph Bufanda
Class of 2003

To many members of the WPI community, the term "stepping" remains a foreign concept and doesn't have much significance or recognition. However, to the WPI Step Team, it's made all the difference.

At first try, to describe what stepping is can be rather difficult. Some are prone to equate it with the theatrical show "Stomp," while others consider it a branch of military drill or dancing. While these references help initial understanding, step performances have unique qualities on their own right.

Basically, a step is a collection of rhythms made by using the hands and feet, and occasionally props such as canes. Responding to chants or calls, a team stomps their feet or claps hands to a base beat along with moving into different formations. In actuality there is more to stepping than this and the rich history of this form of entertainment is rather interesting.

Stepping has its beginnings in the early African American slave community as a means of communication and keeping hold of traditional aspects of the denied culture. It served mainly as a link back to African tribal dance, which in many areas was prohibited. As speaker Lydia Fortune informed the recent BSU Opening Dinner, call-and-response folk songs helped the slaves to survive culturally and to spread word about important matters, such as the Underground Railroad. Several generations later, Black World War II veterans added in a military march theme to the sounds, while Motown grooves and Hip-Hop energy added more entertainment and increased the appeal of the art form.

In the late 1960s, historically Black fraternities and sororities began embracing stepping at college campuses. Previously using step shows as a rite of passage for pledges, the Black Greek letter system has a strong role in the college step scene. There are often specific steps to each chapter and sometimes the groups playfully mock each other's styles during competitions and benefits. Overall, stepping in these organizations provides an enjoyable bonding experience. Younger audiences have created teams at the high school level as well.

Being that WPI does not have a traditional outlet for stepping such as other schools, the WPI Step Team was created initially by members of the EMSEP program. It began in 1998 and opened up as a separate student organization in January of 2000. Now, the co-ed group is open to all students who are interested, regardless of ethnicity or background experience.

Members practice the routine twice a week, which is coordinated by trainer Frances Zgambo. Initially, Zgambo learned about stepping from friends and her high school drill team. She says "We tried to make it more interesting by adding rhythm and style other teams didn't have." Pulling steps from past experience by members enables her to mesh together an assortment of steps to keep audiences interested. Members are encouraged to make up their own steps and give suggestions about what works and what does not.

Most members joined because a friend was involved or to see what the group does.

Some participants are used to seeing friends' or relatives' involvement, while newcomers show up to "see what it was all about." As well as social opportunities, the Step Team adds a more culturally-diverse base to the school and currently looking to expand its membership. Freshman Alex Gomperts sees the Step Team as a place "to meet new people, try something different, and just have a good time."

At first look, people may be discouraged at the sight of a step routine. However, working up from the basics is a good way for people to see that more complex steps are just combinations of simpler things with some crossover. The existence of "rhythm" can be learned over time if it is not immediately innate. Step Team members enjoy the physical and often aerobic work out. "When I first started, it was difficult," Dwaine Austin relates, but now I am able to learn faster." Improvement is a common trend.

Group unity and coordination is an integral part of stepping. An individual member may have the step down pat, but if the team as a whole can not work together, then the beat is muffled down and loses cohesion. According to Rebecca Gougian, "It's a big accomplishment when we get it all together as a group." Currently, she and other members of the team are working on qualifying involvement for PE credit in future terms.

Several exhibitions are scheduled this year, the first being the Black Student Union Night of Performances in Riley Commons February 18th. There along with other student performers, the Step Team will show its routine. The Step Team will be performing at campus events such as Winter Carnival, the upcoming Campus Center opening, and Quadfest. The Step Team also has been invited to perform at Boston University this coming April. The SOAP/Step Team Game Night on February 16th will feature video games, food, and prizes.

If you are interested in learning more about stepping or becoming a possible member, contact wpistep@wpi.edu.


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