The art of step is as much a form of storytelling as it is a physical activity. Using a mix of stomps, claps, hand motions and shouts, stepping offers an outlet for people to have their feelings heard and send a message.
The members of Precision Step Team were getting ready for a performance at Charles City County High School. The team is an award winning collection of Richmond-area middle and high school girls and their show honors Harriet Tubman.
"I think the Harriet Tubman is a very sensitive topic because it is about slavery and a lot of people don’t want to talk about it," says Deejah Watson, a student at Huguenot High School. "But when you see younger people stepping and telling a story then it really makes a difference."
Delana Irby is one of those younger people, a student at Fairfield Middle School, and explains why she started to step. "There were so many riots and protests going around so I wanted something to be heard but that wasn’t violet and something calmer but still rough at the same time, so my voice could be heard. So that’s why I started to step," Irby says.
Kimani Toliver is a graduate of Richmond Community High School. She explains some of the stories the team has tried to tell through step. "We change up themes, so, you know, keep people on their toes. We’ve done a Dora theme. It was less serious and a goofy, but we also had a serious exhibition show that we did. It was based on a black history-type theme," Toliver says. "We shouted out all the names of people who had died of police shootings and things like that."
"So when people hear step, all they hear is stomping but it's really not stomping," says Delana Irby. "Its about all the people out there who are still grieving because you can’t get that out of your head: Somebody was supposed to be here and they’re not here anymore. It’s sad cause, I lost a loved one too from a shooting, I know how they feel. I started stepping because of that. It breaks your heart but then it creates a lot of anger. So whenever I get angry and stuff, I just step."
The team also brings the girls closer together, according to Wilder Middle School student Antoinaya Fields. "My favorite part of the step team is being with my sisters," she says. "When we're traveling it will be real fun cause we’re all so funny. When we stay at hotels I can show my fun side and instead of having to be so serious all the time."