Step is a popular competitive dance sport. Although nobody in Sikel City knows when stepping began, it is purported to have arrived with the first settlers of Phasmatum. In order to step, a person must use their hands and feet to create rhythmic music. It is also common to evoke call and respond from each other and the audience.   Groups of steppers often form organically, through friends or classmates. Often a talented stepper will show off during parties. She will stomp a rhythm with her feet and hands and challenge another person to repeat the move. The other person does so before adding an additional move. They will go progressively faster until one person makes a mistake.   This kind of one-on-one step challenge is often seen as an informal audition before somebody is invited to join a step team. Although there is no one organization affiliated with running official stepping competitions, they often take place at Vodu Academy. Step teams are formed with classmates from all the academies in Sikel City, as well as street step teams, which are formed from people who either graduated or chose not to attend school.   Although step is popular among all social classes, the step teams typically form along clan and wealth lines. Ages of step team participants vary, but most teams will consist of ten to twenty people between the ages of 13 and 25. Some of the older step teams will perform in underground locations in order to gain prestige among their peers.   However, officially sanctioned performances typically come with large gift prizes that are a boon for burgeoning Vodu practitioners. Not to mention, if a team performs well enough, they may catch the eye of a prominent clan member or mambo who would bring them under their fold. Street teams see the underground shows as a stepping stone (no pun intended) to prepare spectacular performances at Vodu Academy.   During official step competitions, each step team will select a loa that they want to honor. In addition to their rhythmic stepping, performers will also incorporate spoken word, dance, aerobics, and drama. One or more persons will act as the drill leader to encourage audience participation. Performers wear elaborate matching costume and will often feature a costume change or reveal partway through their performance.   As participants are judged on both their performance and how well they honor their chosen loa, steppers will also weave illusion magic throughout their performance. Originally, this would be something small, such as having their hair or clothes change color during their rhythmic step. Nowadays, however, steppers will have illusion lightening strike the stage or illusion coins fall into the laps of attendees. The bigger the awe, the more likely they are to win the performance.   Step helps to promote unity among friends and evoke a sense of spirit and pride among those viewing. However, stepping is also used as a way to promote movement training for novice warriors. Step becomes progressively more difficult as one continues and as different members stomp out different rhythms; it allows the stepper to learn how to move separately from others while still acting as one movement.   Because of this, some step teams will also learn how to incorporate weapons into their step routines. Using their weapon as another sound, in addition to their hand claps and foot stomps. Historically, there have been many warrior units who have used stepping when approaching an opposing faction. This unified movement helps to inspire both awe and fear.
Example of Step  

Cover image: by Wesley Carvalho


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