Revitalizing Black Movements in History: “Drumfolk”

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The performers of Step Afrika! gave an unforgettable performance that allowed the audience to reflect on the history of America through the cultural significance of the beat.

Written by Grace Chen

An excited audience waiting for the performance to begin.

Step Afrika performed their new show Drumfolk on Friday, February 7th at the Colwell Playhouse in the Krannert Center of Performing Arts. The performers captured the attention of the audience with its exciting beats and eye-catching dance moves. They also told the history of black Americans and the fight for their rights.

In what ways did the performers seem to use their own bodies as instruments?

The performers would clap, stomp, jump, and hit their own bodies to create a beat. The most unexpected body movement for me was when they would slap the sides of their thighs to create a rhythm. There was also one performer near the beginning of the show where he used his feet, a stick, and a tambourine. He managed to create many different rhythms with only those three elements while keeping the high energy of the performance. I found that to be one of the most impressive performances of the show.

Instruments used on stage.

How did the performance build a sense of community?

I think the sense of community was emphasized when the dancers would step together but yell or move their upper bodies in their own ways. It felt like they were supporting each other and it added to the high energy of the performance. There were a couple of times during the performance where the group would move close to each other and yell the same phrase. It demonstrated the unity of the group and the resistance in general. They would also have great choreographed sets in smaller groups. They would dance their own dances before coming back together as a big group.

How were the ideas of resistance and freedom presented throughout the performance?

One of the main ways the audience saw the resistance was during the mini monologues by the performers. The next act would be signified by the stage emptying and only a couple of performers coming on stage to talk about revolutionary historical moments. They always tied it back to the beat and theme always returned to how the beat could not be stopped. We saw how the music changed from bodies to drums to beatboxing to electronic. Even though more powerful people told them to stop creating their music, the performers always went back to making beats with their bodies. They were resisting against the people who told them “No” and they were able to evolve their music while fighting for their rights.

The performers received a standing ovation and gave an encore performance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and I had a great time. Watching the performers recall moments in history allowed me to reflect on this country’s history while appreciating how far we’ve come. Everyone in the cast seems to love what they are doing to create a passionate performance. If you have the chance, try to catch Step Afrika! on their tour around America!

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