A new dance craze that's been popping up in cities across the U.S. is poised for a major takeoff. Make that a major step off. A team of New York music producers are making big strides in the evolution of stepping.
Swinging and swaying are most certainly allowed, and since the rules and technique are still in the formative stages, so are dipping, twirling, and simply just "chilling (relaxing)." If there were any official instructions on how to step, the first and foremost might be, feel the music.
Being one of the nation's centers of jazz and blues, Chicago, Illinois, became the first to step. But, as its popularity grew, stepping began popping up in other cities like New York and Miami. New York City's Da Producers have jumped on the stepping bandwagon in a big way. The four-man production team brought a recent remix of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" into dance clubs citywide, followed by the release of "The Official Steppers CD."
Da Producers Kwasi Pecou says stepping isn't necessarily a brand new phenomenon. "Stepping has been going on for a while. It's a spin-off of be-bop, and then it turned into the 'bus stop (line dance)', and then in different areas it's called different things, hand dance and swing dance and things of that nature. Stepping was the name born out of Chicago. It's like a social event where they get dressed up and go out. Couples practice routines together, and they have contests and things of that nature. So it's pretty big. They have different sects all over the country," he says.
Kwasi confirms that the days are long gone when stepping was exclusive to a privileged few. "It was more low-key than anything. You had to know somebody or be privy to the event in order to get invited. But now, it's becoming mainstream. A lot of people are doing it and a lot more people are doing it. They're having stepping conventions all over the country every year," he says.
A record number of steppers recently attended a convention in Miami where music from "The Official Steppers CD" was in full swing. The CD was co-produced by Miles Dalto, who says the beauty of stepping is being able to lose yourself in the music. "What's great about it is that it has lots of instruments. It's not so much programmed music. It has more of that 'Motown old-school' kind of vibe," he says. "When I did the remix for 'Let's Get It On' for Marvin Gaye ['Remixed'], [I wasn't prepared for] the response I was going to get from the steppers. I was told that this was like an anthem for them; it was like a theme song almost. Because it was so 'Marvin Gaye meets the steppers' kind of groove, and we just put it together like that and got a great response."
Next up for Da Producers is the release of Miles Dalto's debut album "Urban Sunrise." Steppers, soul fans and those who like their jazz in a smooth funk groove will find the title cut a step in the right direction.