February 10, 2012 | 1:23 p.m.
By Alennah Westlund '14
The Bethel University Royal Steppers step to a different beat than the average college student: a choreographed one. The group uses percussive dance movements of the arms, legs, feet, and hands to create polyrhythmic sounds. Team leader Edwinna M. Johnson, associate dean for intercultural student programs, describes the make-up of the team as “…a group of individuals, each with their own unique backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives, striving to be united as a body of Christ.”
Johnson explains that chants and movement have been used in black fraternities and sororities to express solidarity as early as the 1920s. Step has since developed and transformed into a more elaborate art form that now includes competitive step. Step teams are now part of fraternities, sororities, and other campus organizations throughout the United States, as well as in many high schools and churches.
The Royal Steppers started as a branch of the Office of Intercultural Programs and Services, and the group includes several intercultural students. They recently attended and performed at the North Park Diversity Student Leadership Conference in Chicago, an event designed to “develop students in the areas of cultural competency and racial reconciliation,” says Johnson. The Steppers also perform numerous times as part of Bethel’s celebration of Black History Month in February.