Hidden History: African-American culture comes to life through dancing at YSU

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An African-American dance company made its way to Youngstown State University, and on Tuesday night, taught students and the community about black history through dance.

That dance is called stepping, something 27 First News Reporter Noah Daniels-Wilder is familiar with.

He started in middle school and joined a fraternity that steps in college. Through his time in college, Daniels-Wilder says he learned how important and unique stepping is to black history, something portrayed Tuesday night at YSU.

Stepping is an art form influenced by historical African dance that shows how powerful the culture is.

You stomp your feet and clap your hands without music, a tradition that dates back decades.

“Back to the early 1900s when African-American fraternities and sororities created this art form,” said Emanuel Chacon, a Step Afrika member.

A tradition Step Afrika, a dance company strictly dedicated to stepping, keeps alive one beat at a time.

“It’s nice that you have that support system when you’re in stepping and you have that support system that you know are your people. During Black History Month, it’s very important to acknowledge that and support that,” said Anesia Sandifer, a Step Afrika member.

Between each performance was an explanation of the steps and its origins, educating students and people in the community on how stepping is intertwined with black history.

“For our students who come from more of a whiter background we’ll say, or maybe not as diverse background, it gives students the opportunity to see the other side,” said Ian Tanner, YSU’s Housing and Residence Life associate director.

And for black students, a representation of where they come from.

“It gives them the chance to connect to something that they’re pretty proud of, they’re pretty happy to see on this campus, something that represents truly them to make them feel more a part of this university,” Tanner said.

An art normally seen on college campuses is now stepping around the world.

“To be able to take this art form and be able to build it to what it is and to be able to showcase it in such a different light and show people that it can be a well-respected dance form… it’s an amazing thing,” Chacon said.

Next Thursday, YSU will show the movie Green Book as part of Black History Month at its Cafaro House.

For Black History Month, First News will be presenting a Hidden History special. It’s going to air on FOX Youngstown at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, February 23 and at noon Sunday, February 24.

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