Cadillac presented 21st Annual World’s Largest Steppers Contest in Tinley Park, IL last night.
Steppin’ is a Chicago-born dancing cultural phenomenon that traces its roots back to the Zoot Suit era– hence, the elegant style of dress. The dapper dons and well-dressed ladies mesmerize the crowd with each 8-count step.
Terrance Pratt is one of the event’s participants–he hosted the Friday night event with Andre Blackwell; Pete Frazier is the organizer–for the sold-out event. “I’ve been steeping for 10 years; I was taught by a master stepper Andre Blackwell who choreographed R. Kelly’s video, ‘Step in the Name of Love,” he says. “People from all different ages and ethnicities come together and have fun.”
The event was held in Tinley Park, Illinois, but the crowd came from everywhere, from Los Angeles, to New York and everywhere in between.
Popeye is from Toledo, Ohio. “This is the greatest event in the entire world, it’s like a high that you’ve never experienced,” Popeye says. “It’s almost like talking to Jesus.”
These steppers are religious about their routines, style of dress and the code that dictates elegance first and foremost.
The steppers were judged on several categories including appearance, originality, showmanship and footwork.
Master Stepper Taboo, has been stepping for 35 years. “It’s a culture from our people of Chicago, I learned watching the legends of the stepping game coming back from when I was in eighth grade,” he says. “I am here to support the steppers, I moved to New Orleans in 1999 and they just asked me to come back [to judge the contest] because I am considered one of the greatest steppers that ever lived.”
There are 8-counts to the step dance, but there is room for originality as salsa stepper Tina Melendrez demonstrates.
“I was teaching and dancing salsa for about 14 years, and I was introduced to stepping through Swan [a stepping instructor]. I just got engaged with the smooth elegance of the dance, I took the class with Claudel [stepping instructor]and it was over!“
Many were lured to the show because it’s magical, says Jamie Foster Brown, publisher of Sister 2 Sister magazine.
“Stepping shows the magic of black people, the camaraderie, the spirit, the complexity of the dance and it shows that our culture is so strong,” says Jamie Foster Brown states. “People travel from all over the United States to come here and to see each other and be friends with each other and to have a good time.”
Nina Price, Communications Manager at General Motors, says Cadillac support the steppers because the elegant culture resonates with the Cadillac brand. “Cadillac is getting out into our communities where we live and work and have our businesses,” Price beams. “ Steppers represent elegance and class and so does Cadillac.”
First Place Winners by Category
Tosha Downey & Mark Alexander
Original Out-Of-Towners Category
Maurice Thomas & Tamika Wiley
Original Old School Category
Kirk White & Sabrina White
Drewry Alexander & Sherry Gordon
New School Category
Drewry Alexander & Lakeesha Anderson
Trio Category Kirk & Sabrina & Dejanier Ewing-Hill