Arts Envoy Program: Stepping it up with Soul Steps in Cameroon
The most culturally informed Cameroonian has only heard about step dance from the media. Thanks to an Arts Envoy program, many Cameroonians had the unique opportunity to watch a step dance performance live with Soul Steps, a group of four talented dancers from New York: Maxine Lyle, Angela Brackett, Dionne Norton and Heather DeLeon. As Farikou Bello, a young choreographer from Cameroon put it “This is a dream come true. I thought I would have had to travel to the United States to watch, and learn step dance, but step dance came right to my doorstep.” Soul Steps program in Cameroon included workshops, lecture presentations, and performances.
From July 17-20, Soul Steps conducted a workshop with 20 Cameroonian dancers. Working for three hours every day, Cameroonian dancers learned some basic steps and learned about the origins of this dance style. Many of them were delighted to learn that step dance actually has its roots in the mines of South Africa with gumboot dancing. The workshop was so productive that American and Cameroonian dancers created a joint choreography, with moves and steps from both countries. This choreography was performed as part of the final act of the Abok I Ngoma International dance Festival.
Soul Steps had two lecture/presentations for members of the University of Yaounde 1 ballet, and for English Access Microscholarship Program participants respectively. In addition to showing the students some steps, members of the group engaged in a discussion on the importance of dance. Using their personal stories, Maxine, Heather, Angela and Dionne, urged students to work towards fulfilling their dreams. “We are proof that whatever your dream is, with hard work, passion and commitment, you will achieve it” they said. Members of the University of Yaounde 1 ballet introduced the Soul Steps to the cultural diversity of Cameroon, making the session a veritable cultural exchange.
Soul Steps staged three performances, In Ebolowa, at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence, and at the French Cultural Center respectively. Each of the shows was a true delight for the spectators who were enthralled by this dance form that combined the use the body as percussion and a musical instrument. The audience was so moved by the show that they did not hesitate to respond to the calls from the performers either to step from their seats or to join them on stage.
Soul Steps program in Cameroon was in conjunction with the Abok I Ngoma International Dance Festival.