The History of Step
"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. 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."