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Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Stepping Through College

Boom, snap, clap, ba-boom, snap, clap, snap, boom, snap, clap, ba-boom, snap, shhhh.

These sounds are only the foundations to a much more complex song played by the bodies of the UB Step Troupe.

Since 1992, the club members have been using their bodies as instruments to produce beats and rhythms through the clapping, stomping and slapping of their hands and feet.

"I love the sound of it a lot and I love the sound of making beats [with my body]," said Justina Theus, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major. "I get all of my energy out from the week, it's like I'm in a different world from everyday life."

Stepping is both an expression of music and dance. The only melody that is played comes from the percussion made by the unified sound of the team.

"When I step I feel very happy, free and joyous. Though step is a routine and its mechanical, you are still a part of something and you are still a part of a team," said Jason Chan, a freshman aerospace engineering major. "It's a rhythm that you have to follow…it's just wonderful how your stepping with everyone else, like a chorus. You're singing with everyone else to make this one unified sound that reaches every little note of the soul of the listener."

Coming up with these captivating routines is not an easy thing to do. It is the job of the team coordinator, Lydia Witherspoon, a sophomore Spanish linguistics major, to choreograph the steps. She studies the rhythm of different songs and choreographs steps to match the beats. Witherspoon has been stepping since her freshman year in high school, but has been a dedicated fan of the UB Step Troupe since she was much younger.

"I saw [the step team] at a UB basketball game when I was 12 and I remember everyone not really being receptive to them," Witherspoon said. "I wanted to come and change it so people would like the step team and want to watch. I think as a club, we aren't as strong of a presence as I would like us to be, but as an overall competitor, I think we have come a long way."

Spectators have the opportunity to watch the team compete in annual competitions at Buffalo State College, Daemen College and the University of Rochester. These competitions are a major aspect of what brings the step team together.

"We are trying to do theatrical performances with full costume and makeup. That's what makes us stand out," Witherspoon said. "[Other teams] will all do themes but not all out like we do them. We all are really competitive and we usually win, which makes us want to push harder to keep winning."

The team has always participated in these competitions and performed well, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that it began winning.

"My favorite part of the shows and competitions is when we dress up and wear costumes," said Nacolle Oneal, junior legal studies major. "It's a different theme every year and every competition. We do both theater and step in our shows to make them unique."

Incorporating a theatrical trait makes the routines memorable for the members as well as the audience watching them perform.

"Step and music are initially the same," Chan said. "They have the same background to reverberate with everyone's expectations, likes, dislikes, and everything about that person, just to make it so that they are sharing the feeling of the dancers."

The team's favorite theme from last year was zombies vs. students. Half of the team was dressed in full zombie attire while the other was dressed as regular students. They acted out a story of hungry zombies chasing after the students.

"[Before competitions] I'm really nervous," Theus said. "Before I go on, anxiety is just all over my body. But once I get onstage and use that adrenaline, I feel like I can do anything."

In order to master these intricate routines, the team practices hard for at least two days a week, depending on the schedules of the members.

However, the complexity of the moves shouldn't discourage anybody, male or female, from trying out for the team. Most of the members started with little to no experience.

"I've never done it, I've heard of it and seen it and it was very different but I wanted to try it. I was so nervous," said Zulma Guzman, freshman pharmacy major who just made the team last week. "[The team members] were helpful and there were parts where I was lost. But they pulled me to the side and showed me, then I got it and was able to catch up."

This year, over 20 newcomers tried out for the team and anywhere from 25 to 40 members are expected to be on the team, according to Witherspoon.

"I think that people are less likely to try out for the team because they think they can't," Witherspoon said. "I think once people do it they realize it's not hard at all once you break it down."





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