Although stepping is historically performed by black fraternities and sororities, it’s also catching on with students from other backgrounds. See Wichita State University’s “Shock the Yard” for proof.
The show’s coordinator and co-chair are from Asian-American organizations.
“I think it allows us to display a part of our culture which we pride ourselves in,” said Joseph Shepard, the show’s emcee and an African-American student majoring in criminal justice. “It allows us to share our rich history.”
As for the participation of students from other backgrounds, Shepard added: “Wichita State is the most diverse institution (of higher education) in the state of Kansas. We’re really proud of it.”
“Shock the Yard,” which happens Saturday at the Orpheum, was started six years ago by WSU’s Multicultural Greek Council. Its centerpiece – “stepping” – is a form of group dance that incorporates sound in the form of footsteps, hand claps and spoken word. Break dancing and marching bands are other sources that influence the routines. It’s been a part of African-American Greek culture on college campuses since the early 1900s.
This year’s lineup of step troupes is down slightly, from 14 last year to 11. “The show (in 2014) went very long,” Shepard said. “We want people to be entertained, but we also want to be considerate of their time.”
Five Greek organizations from WSU are participating, in addition to a youth team and squads from Texas and Oklahoma. Each group contains between seven and 15 dancers. The segments last between five and 10 minutes.
Samanta Tran is a member of Sigma Psi Zeta, an Asian-American sorority that was established on campus in 2013 and took part in last year’s “Shock the Yard.”
“I think it’s because our main goal is more diversity,” said Tran, a junior studying pre-med biology. “We are a Multicultural Greek Council sorority.”
Tran said it was “tough preparing the steps” required for the show, but her sorority members got only “good vibes” after their performance. They checked out movies and YouTube videos for inspiration.
“We stepped out of our comfort zones,” Tran said. “We really enjoyed it so we’re coming back.”
This year the sorority’s theme is “It’s On Us,” a national campaign to stop sexual assaults on college campuses.
“That is a cause we want to step for,” she said.
Fellow sorority member Annie Bui is not performing but is serving as coordinator for the show. Branden Tang, a member of an Asian-American fraternity, is the event’s co-chair.
“We really all do have the passion for the step show and for our council in general,” said Bui, a senior majoring in mathematics. “Doing the step show is a way to put our hearts out there.”
The show has sold out the past couple of years, and organizers expect another big crowd this year. All proceeds go toward staging next year’s show.
“I would say about 40 percent come from the school and the rest from the community,” Tang said. “Most of the community have some connection to the people performing.”
Not all the themes are serious.
Shepard said one step team is using the horror movie “Saw” as its theme, getting “instructions” that they, like characters in the film, must carry out or die. “So hopefully they make it out of the Orpheum alive,” he said.
If you go
‘Shock the Yard’
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $10 in advance at selectaseat.com; $15 at the door