Albany Step Show Highlights Local Dancers’ Talent at Palace February 20, 2022
ALBANY — Local step dance groups shook off the cold of this winter night to shake, pump, and shimmy as the young women showcased traditional step dancing at the Palace Theatre. This is the Albany area’s 18th Step Show, missing only one year due to COVID, and highlighted children as young as 5 on stage with local step dancers from colleges and beyond.
If you haven’t seen step, it is a combination of African dancing with some modern hip hop flair thrown in. The dancers are incredibly athletic, rolling and shaking their bodies as hips are dropped low. The pace of the dancing is quick, clever, and often impossible to imagine matching. The energy of the dancers is contagious, lifting hearts and cheers from throats of those who watched.
Step dancing is associated with Black American fraternity and sorority competitions nationwide, and the divine nine greek organizations were represented in Albany this Sunday night with their own dancers on stage. Offered up as a reason to consider college, the “Greek Parade” of dancers was as agile as it was fierce. Individuals and groups danced on stage with short sets highlighting talent worthy of stages beyond Albany. The children in the crowd were mesmerized, and the adults awestruck by the talent on stage.
The Albany Step Show followed the Greek Parade with local dancers Magnificent Tone Setters, led by coaches Tina and Lakeya Walker. The girls and young women in that group have competed and won championship competitions in Brooklyn, and are currently preparing for nationals. The Tone Setters also remembered their past member Chyna Forney, a recent victim of street violence who was one of the original dancers in their group.
Chyna’s name was repeated throughout the evening with awe and respect. It was clear the younger dancers admired her spirit and energy, and her own most recent step group 2Hot4U celebrated her passing into heaven with its choreography and storyline.
The event celebrated athleticism, choreography, and family spirit. The audience was filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends; little brothers ran up and down the aisles with smiles printed on their faces as sisters used Step to express powerful emotion and strength.
From the Minie Barbetss’ athleticism to the Flamin Shawties’ joyful smiles, the younger dancers exuded hope. The older groups told stories and wore fancier costumes, and the tight synchronicity in Team Onyx (SQUAD X) elicited hoots of excitement from the community in the audience. 2Hot4U, the band that Forney was Team Captain for at the time of her death, put on a tremendous effort with quick costume changes and high jumps. Both these groups danced for a dizzying long time, showcasing endurance, strength, and muscle.
The evening ended with a performance by the Something Exclusive Dance Team. The women told a dizzying and somewhat chaotic Alice in Wonderland through dance. Tumbling across the stage, the dancers included little girls dressed as bunnies and young women as Alice, the Queen, and Cheshire Cat, all of whom could pop and lock it in step with one another.
The event was hosted by DJ TGIF and local comedienne Lady T, both of whom managed to keep the teams on task and rolled through a number of obstacles to a well-executed night with ease. Lady T even danced a bit herself, so moved by the Step teams’ spirit. The Palace swelled with community pride and expressed hope not only for the young women on the stage, but also for those littlest girls who cheered on their neighbors, sisters, and cousins from their seats.
Early in the night, Coach of the Magnificent Tone Setters Tina Walker gave some advice that many seemed to agree upon. “Parents, if your kids are interested in stickers, join a sticker club. Your girls want to dance? Bring them to Step. Give them hope, give them something to believe in,” she advised the crowd. And if you looked around, you realized she was preaching to the choir; the community was there to support their dancers, and to keep hope alive for generations to come.