New Victory Arts Break: North America – Play

It’s time to play! Last week, we got a peek into Step Afrika!’s rehearsal process. As we continue exploring the arts in North America this week, we’ll return to Washington, D.C. and start moving to some familiar rhythms. Get ready to step, clap and beat your feet—let’s go go-go!

Stay up to date on Arts Break and other arts-based activities! Sign up for New Victory email.

Explore All Arts Breaks

New Victory Arts Break North America Play

Feel the Go-Go in Your Feet

Shall we dance? New Victory Teaching Artist Olney Edmondson is here to teach us some moves straight out of Washington, D.C. But first, let’s warm up! Spend a few minutes stretching your body and getting your blood pumping.

Go-go Stretches 1, 2, 3 GIF

Go-go Stretches 4, 5, 6 GIF

The last time we hung out with Olney, we learned about the origins and rhythms of go-go, the official music of D.C. The dance style that accompanies go-go is called Beat Your Feet, and Olney, a D.C. native, has a few moves she’s ready to share. Are you ready to beat your feet to the go-go beat?

Let’s practice the Beat Your Feet moves that Olney taught us. Can you do…

  • The three-step kick?
  • The bop-boppity?
  • The bounce?

Combine all that you learned, and don’t forget to include a signature move that showcases your personal flair! Teach a family member or friend some of the moves you learned and beat your feet together.

Three Step Kick GIF

Ready to take your dance moves to the street? Check out how Step Afrika! moves their feet to go-go music all over Washington, D.C., in their recent dance piece #MASKITUP:

Step Back, Step Together

Step Afrika! has lifted the art form of stepping to new heights, but did you know that stepping first rose to popularity in… school? That’s right! Stepping as we know it began in the early 1900s at colleges and universities, where African American students founded fraternities and sororities to build community. You can learn more about these organizations—the Divine Nine—and the tradition of stepping on Step Afrika!’s website, and watch the video below showcasing student steppers from around the country:

In Drumfolk (New Victory 2020) and The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence (New Victory 2017), Step Afrika! explored some of the origins of stepping, including its connection to other African and African American rhythmic and musical traditions, like the ring shout, juba and gumboot. Explore the connection between the origins of South African gumboot and North American stepping in this animated history of gumboot.

Now that you’ve learned a few things about stepping, it’s time to try it out! This activity features a caller, who leads the song or phrase, and a responder, who responds to the call and does a step. Here’s New Victory Education Fellow William Porter with a quick demonstration:

Step One: Decide who will be the caller and who will be the responder. You can also take turns so that everyone gets a chance to play each role.

Step Two: Choose your call and response phrases. Each phrase should be short and easy to say on the beat, and the response can follow from or complete the call. For example, the caller could say “Here we…” and the responder would respond with “go!” Practice a call and response a few times in order to make sure everyone’s got it down.

Step Three: Once the caller calls and the responder responds, there’s an empty beat before it starts up again. To fill that rest, the responder adds a stomp or a clap!

Step Four: Continue adding stomps and claps. You’re inventing your own stepping sequence! If the responder needs some inspiration, or a bit of a challenge, the caller can call out combinations of stomps and claps. “Stomp, stomp! Clap, clap!”

For more examples of body percussion and stepping, check out our Percussion Week Arts Break!

Step to the Beat

Do you have a favorite song? In this activity, we’ll explore the beats of some of our favorite tunes and transform them into a stepping sequence. To start off, make a list of some of your favorite songs and answer the following questions in your New Victory Notebook.

  • How do your favorite songs make you feel?
  • Do these songs make you want to move? If so, how would you move to them?
  • Do your songs have music videos? Watch a few to get a sense of the singers’ or dancers’ movements. What did you notice?

A list of songs written in a notebook

Now it’s time to find the beats in your favorite songs. The beat you’re listening for isn’t just the rhythm—it also might draw on the song’s melody or instrumentation. Once you find the beat, you can start to explore how it can live in your body. Here’s William again with a few example beats.

Step One: From your list of favorite songs, choose one to work with. Listen to the song’s rhythm and melody. Can you find the beat in the song? Try clapping it out with your hands as you listen.

Step Two: Turn off the song and see if you can still clap out the beat.

Step Three: Now that you’ve got that beat in your hands, see if you can put it somewhere else. Maybe you can stomp out one or more of the beats. Or maybe you can clap on another part of your body, like your arm or your thigh.

Step Four: See how complicated you can make this beat! Maybe you clap it out the first time, then add in stomps the second time. What other movements can you add? Can you express the beat with your eyebrows? On your tummy? On someone else? Take it to the next level!

Thanks for playing with the rhythms and movements of stepping! Join us next week as we wrap up our tour of arts around the world and connect with a few members of the New Victory Usher Corps and New Victory Teaching Artist Adia Tamar Whitaker.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by 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 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.