Edited by Azizi Powell
This is Part I of a three part series that compares three different but closely related African American originated performance movement arts: historically Black fraternities & sororities steppin (stepping); foot stomping [cheers]; and stomp & shake cheerleading.
Part I provides an overview of historically Black (African American) Greek letted fraternities & sororities.
Part II provides an overview of foot stomping cheers.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/an-overview-of-foot-stomping-movement.html for Part II.
Part III of this series provides an overview of stomp & shake cheerleading.
Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/05/overview-of-stomp-shake-cheerleading.html for Part III.
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
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OVERVIEW OF STEPPIN'
Steppin, foot stomping, and stomp & shake cheerleading are three closely related but distinct movement performance arts. Each of these performance art forms originated among African Americans. Steppin (stepping) is the oldest of these performance arts.
Steppin (Stepping) is a syncopated, choreographed performance art that occurs at competitive "step shows" and other venues. The performance art of steppin originated among historically Black (African American) university based Greek lettered fraternities & sororities.
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A34OD4eA17o for a video demonstration of 19th century Buck dances, Wing dances, and Jigs. Duke University professor Thomas F. DeFrantz describes Buck dances as those which were very percussive, and weighted down into the foot. It seems clear from that description & his demonstration that Buck dances is one of the sources of Steppin.
I've seen the 1940s given as the date that historically Black Greek lettered organizations began steppin'. I'm willing to accept that 1940s date as long as it's understood that the beginning of what steppin has become didn't look like steppin now.
in her book Soul Stepping Elizabeth Fine quotes a 1924 Howard University student newspaper The Hilltop article entitled "Hell-Week" in which members of Omega Psi Phi and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternites are described as pledges "dancing about the campus..." (p.15).
However that dancing or that marching on campus that is also documented didn't look the same as the Black Greek letted organizations' steppin' styles that developed in the 1980s and 1990s. Elizabeth Fine also wrote that "The shift from the old-style circular stepping of the 1940s and 1950s to the increasingly complex synchronized movement style of the 1980s and 1990s attests to the new role stepping has in asserting black cultural identity" (p. 6).
Since at least the 1990s among historically Black Greek lettered organizations (BGLO), the performance art of strolls (party walks) has been added to most step routines, particularly at the end of those routines. "Strolls" (party walks) are done in a vertical line to recorded music, usually from the R&B/Hip-Hop genres, Those referents describe the strutting, dancing walk that the organizations' members informally do at dances/parties. While steppin is almost always a competitive performance, fraternities against fraternities, and sororities against sororities, "strolls" can be either competitive within those gender groupings, or non-competitive.
Each fraternity & sorority, including those which belong to The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), a collaborative organization of nine historically African American, international Greek lettered fraternities and sororities NPHC, has its own distinctive way of stepping. Some organizations usually step with props such as canes while others never use canes. One of those organizations, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. has a distinctive hopping movement to its steppin routines, and actually prefers the reference "Hops" rather than steps to describe their routines. Body patting ("Hambone", pattin Juba") can be but is not necessarily an element of the steppin routines of each of "Divine Nine" members of the NPHC.
Since at least the 1990s among historically Black Greek lettered organizations (BGLO), the performance art of strolls (party walks) has been added to most step routines, particularly at the end of those routines. "Strolls" (party walks) are done in a vertical line to recorded music, usually from the R&B/Hip-Hop genres. The names "strolls" and "party walks" refer to the strutting, dancing walk that the organizations' members informally do at dances/parties. While steppin is almost always a competitive performance, fraternities against fraternities, and sororities against sororities, "strolls" can be either competitive within those gender groupings, or non-competitive
Click http://cocojams.com/content/fraternity-sorority-step-stroll-related-videos for an expanded version of this Overview.
SUMMARY DESCRIPTION OF CATEGORIES OF BLACK FRATERNITY & SORORITY CHANTS
Historically Black Greek lettered fraternity & sorority chants are composed in two lined rhyming verses. These verses are usually chanted or sung in unison but may also be in call & response style. The lyrics of the chants are usually adapted from other song genres such as Spirituals, R&B, and other popular music. There are at least three types of fraternity & sorority chants & songs. In the first category are chants/songs that praise & profess their love for a specific organization, provide information about that organization's history, and/or extol the public persona of that organization's members.
The second category of fraternity & sorority chants is "pledging" chants/songs, These chants/songs express the desire for membership in & the commitment to a specific organization that persons striving for membership in that organization have.
The third category of fraternity & sorority chants & songs are those in which a particular fraternity compares itself favorably with other fraternities and/or insults (disses) other fraternities or a specific fraternity, or a sorority does the same toward other sororities or a specific sorority. This category also includes chants/song is one in which a fraternity praises a sorority with which it has informal or formal ties and vice versa.
Traditionally, persons who aren't associated with a specific fraternity or sorority are prohibited against doing that organization's stepping routines or performing songs and chants that are associated with that specififc organization. That prohibition is still in place today.
TWO EXAMPLES OF HISTORICALLY BLACK GREEK LETTERED ORGANIZATION STEPPIN & CHANTING
Below is one steppin & step chant example from the first historically Black (African American) Greek lettered fraternity that is still in existence - Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Alphas; founded 1906]. Below also is one example of the first historically Black (African American Greek lettered sorority that is still in existence [Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, (AKA; founded 1908.]
Click http://cocojams.com/content/fraternity-and-sorority-chants for more text examples & videos of fraternity & sorority chants.
Also click http://cocojams.com/content/fraternity-sorority-step-stroll-related-videos for videos of fraternity & sorority stepping.
Example #1: King Tut and Finale - Spring 2011 - Beta Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc
Theophilus Woodley,Uploaded on May 17, 2011
Recorded on March 18, 2011 using a Flip Video camcorder.
Here's one version of this signature chant by an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. step team.
King Tut went to Egypt the other day
To Check out the greeks that were coming his way
He saw the Ques, and he said thay acted like a fool
He saw the Kappas, and he said that they were not cute
He saw the Sigmas, and he said that they made him sick
Then he saw the A-PHI!, and he made his pick
-ENewton; http://www.stophazing.org/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=7;t=000243 ; 09-30-2005
Click the link to the Cocojams fraternity and sorority chants page that is found above for a longer example of this chant.
FEATURED EXAMPLE #2: Alpha Kappa Alpha
Uploaded by MissAmariG on Aug 30, 2010
Fall 2009 Yard Show (San Diego Undergraduate City Wide (UCSD, SDSU, USD). The Mu Iota Chapter)
I'm particularly interested in the first example which was chanted when the step team entered the plaza. That chant is clearly based on the Duckworth chant ("Sound Off"). Here's my transcription of that sorority chant. A lead chants the first line and the rest of the group chants the words that are in parenthesis.
I don't know what you've been told
[I don't know what you've been told]
AKA's my heart and soul.
[AKA's my heart and soul]
One thing that I know for sure
[One thing that I know for sure]
Don't want no red, no blue, no gold*
Don't want no red, no blue, no gold*
-Fall 2009 Yard Show (San Diego Undergraduate City Wide (UCSD, SDSU, USD). The Mu Iota Chapter) ; video uploaded by MissAmariG on Aug 30, 2010
RELATED LINK (added December 14, 2013)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/13/black-greek-organizations_n_4435538.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular These Videos Of Old School Step Shows Will Fill You With Nostalgia [videos of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.- Beta Beta Chapter, 1984; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.- Alpha Chapter, 1987; and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.- Beta Alpha Chapter, 1991]
This concludes Part I of this series.
Thanks to the composer/s of these chants and the performers of these featured step routines. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.
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