New Victory Arts Break: Music and Stepping

This season as part of New Victory On Demand, Step Afrika! is stomping onto your screen with Stono, a cinematic exploration of the Stono Rebellion of 1739, the Negro Act of 1740 and the resounding rhythms that gave birth to the uniquely African American art form of stepping. For the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring the art forms on display in this powerful performance, beginning with the music of stepping and body percussion.

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New Victory Arts Break: Music and Stepping

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future.

Stepping to New Rhythms
Stepping has a very specific cultural origin, but the rhythms and movements of stepping can lend themselves to all kinds of musical styles. Follow along with unstoppable stepper and New Victory Teaching Artist Asha John as she teaches a stepping routine that you can perform to music from your own culture.

Step One: Review the two combinations Asha demonstrated and practice them!

Asha's first combination: stomp, clap, and a thigh hitAsha's second combination: stomp, clap and a shoulder hit

When putting the combinations together into a phrase, punctuate it with one final stomp, and remember to bring your arms up parallel to the ground, elbows out and fists facing each other:

Asha's ending: stomp and fists together, elbow out

Step Two: Pick a song from your culture that you can step to. Think of a song that you and your family listen to a lot, or that you hear a lot at family gatherings. Give that song another listen and find the beat.

Step Three: Try performing the steps you learned to the beat of the song you chose. It might take a few tries to match the song’s rhythm with the combinations. Keep practicing!

Once you’ve got your choreo down, teach your steps to someone in your family! You could also invite a friend to share a song from their culture, and then work together to step to the beat of that song.

Express Yourself in the Rhythm
Sharing personal stories with friends takes courage and mutual respect. But have you ever gotten to know someone through dance? In this activity we’ll use rhythm and body percussion to share more about who we are and connect with a friend.

Step One: Clap, clap, stomp! Stomp, clap, snap! Create a three-beat rhythm using your body and practice it.

Step Two: Now, fill in the blanks in this short personal portrait:

My name is   and I live in  .

I love to   and sometimes  .

I dislike   and also  .

Now you know about me. What about you?

Step Three: Start the rhythm you created. Do it a few times and then add your words, repeating your rhythm after each filled-in blank. If you’re sharing with someone else and they also want to share, pass to them! Can you expand the share circle to a group of friends?

BONUS: Yesenia and Jaylin from the New 42 Youth Corps both came up with more complex stepping combinations for each of their lines. Can you create different combinations for each of your lines?

Rhythmic Earworms
Our favorite music and songs contain unique rhythms, in both their melodies and their actual percussion. These rhythms help us identify a song—and move and groove to it. In this activity, we’ll use percussion on surfaces and our bodies to replicate our favorite songs’ rhythms.

Step One: Pick your favorite song! Give it a good listen. What beats from the song stick out to you? Try to mimic them! Tap on a surface, clap, stomp—it’s all up to you! Have fun jammin’ to your favorite tune.

Step Two: Turn the music off and try performing the beat you practiced. See if you can get it as close to the song as possible. Maybe you need to add an extra stomp or clap? Get it close enough that the song becomes identifiable.

Step Three: Perform your beat for someone and see if they can guess your favorite song! Once they’ve guessed, put on the song and jam together.

BONUS: Practice making beats for a few of your favorite songs, and invite your friends to do the same. Then you can take turns guessing and make a real rhythm game out of it!

New Victory Teaching Artist Peter Musante
Continue your exploration of stepping, body percussion and rhythmic revelry with New Victory Teaching Artist Peter Musante in Arts Break: Percussion Week.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council,and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.