Alpha Phi Alpha reclaimed their first place standing this year at the National Pan Hellenic Council’s (NPHC) annual Step Show, which occurred on Thursday, Oct. 17 in the Allen Theater. The Alphas chose the movie "Straight Outta Compton" and N.W.A for their inspiration.
“We stuck really to the movies plot,” Chibu Nine Nwafor, a senior industrial engineering major from Dallas, and the president of the Alphas, said. “But really the formation of the NWA group was kind of similar to how our Alpha Phi Alpha actually formed. There were many people getting in the way, try to stop us, but we resonated with that and since we saw similar characteristics, it drove us and gave us more passion to come up with the act.”
Hours of time and work went into perfecting the routine, and the week leading to the show, the Alphas practiced as many as four hours per day in preparation, Caleb Ola, a senior wind energy major from Houston, and member of the Alphas, said.
Because of their intense preparation, Ola said he was confident going into the show.
“That’s one thing about us, we just leave it all on the stage,” he said. “That’s why I'm not worried about my guys, they're pretty Gucci.”
The runners up were Kappa Alpha Psi with their adaptation of the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air." The theme of this years Step Show was TV and movies, Dayo J Olabode, a senior engineering major from Dallas, and the president of the NPHC said.
Olabode is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and portrayed Will Smith in his fraternity's routine, and despite nerves, he said performing with this fraternity helped him overcome his fears.
“For me, I used to be a real nervous person,” Olabode said. “At first it's kind of nerve racking, you see all the people out on stage, the lights, but the thing that helps you is that you know you’ve practiced, and you put in all the work and you can trust the people to the right and to the left of you.
He said when on stage it felt like it was just another day of rehearsal, and there was no judgement since people were enjoying the performance and what he was doing.
Stepping is a phenomenon that has gained more attention in recent years, but it has a rich cultural history. Stepping is a series of choreographed stomps, claps, movements and shouts, Kaelyn Helm, a senior psychology major from Arlington, said. Strolling is also an element often incorporated into step routines, which has more of a dance element to it and is usually done to music.
Step can trace it's roots back to slavery, Nwafor said. Slaves would use their bodies to communicate with each other, but today it represents culture, livelihood, and perseverance.
“It's tradition, it's carried on for centuries and centuries,” he said. “It's an art, it's something you have to feel. You can learn the same step, but if you don't have the passion, the sound, and the rhythm, it’ll be a lot different.”
Stepping represents more than simply the skits and routines performed, Ola said. He has been stepping for more than a year, and he said some of his fraternity brothers have been stepping for even longer. Ola initially started Stepping to bring awareness to issues like voting and equal rights.
Though it is typically performed as a group, he said one of the best things about step is how everyone who performs has the ability to embrace it and make it their own.
“Different people step different ways, and it took me a long time to realize that,” Ola said. “You can just do it in your own way. If you try to do it the way someone else does it, it looks weird because your body shape is not the same as someone else. Stepping is just like breathing and walking, you just have to do it according to how your body reacts and moves naturally.”
Fraternities and sororities have adopted step as a tradition. It pays homage to the past, while representing unity and community within the NPHC, Olabode said.
The Alphas were the first Greek organization founded in 1906, he said, and since then members used it to communicate to audiences what is going on. Stepping has been adapted in different ways within the organizations, but it serves as a way to educate while entertaining.
Olabode said that though it is a performance, he wants audiences to understand the long history behind stepping and the Greek organizations, and wants to express to the Tech community what the NPHC is about: Unity.
“So it's an opportunity that people get to know us and understand that we have formed this bond because at one point we were segregated,” Olabode said. “And although that is not there right now, it's what drives us here, what our founders were driven on. I think that's the great thing is that we all get the chance to come together and work together, especially at Tech. A lot of schools, some Alphas, Kappas, they're not as cool with each other. But at this school, at Tech, we have a great community. Everyone supports each other and so with everyone supporting each other, now with the Step Show, we can get more support from the whole school. As we want to support everyone else in their events, that people support us as well, so it's just a united school.”
Olabode said connecting the NPHC with more organizations on the Tech campus has been a priority for him.
The Step Show is both a performance and contest. The routines were judged and this year the Alphas won. However, Nwafor said the show is not about the competition as much as community.
“We all join our respective organizations to be apart of something bigger than ourselves,” he said. “It's bigger than the money, it's bigger than the prize, it's bigger than the fame, it's mainly about us representing who we are, making sure we have a presence on campus because were the smallest Greek organization on campus. So it's important for us as NPHC and as Alphas to make sure our presence is felt and I believe our presence was felt today.”