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It starts down on the ground, with a percussive pound that shakes the stage. A “sandpaper drag” and a click of heels that gets picked up by a clap of hands; a slap on the chest; a snap of the fingers and a whoop, shout, whistle from the heart. This is whole-body music, in all its tapping, clapping, snapping, spoken-word rapping glory – and this is the sound of Step Afrika!

From our nation’s capital comes the troupe known as “the first professional dance company in the world dedicated to the tradition of Stepping” – and if that bears further explanation, you should know that Stepping is a century-long dance tradition that was developed and perfected by the members of African American college fraternities and sororities.

It’s a serious pursuit on the college Step Team competition circuit – and in the hands (and feet) of choreographer Jakari Sherman’s company of dancers, it’s a form that goes ten steps beyond, with echoes of everything from Broadway showstoppers to South African gumboot dance; ballet-trained movements to acrobatic leaps, flips, and tumbles.

Traveling the world as official cultural ambassadors of the United States – and riding a resurgent wave of interest in this exciting “new” dance form -the nonprofit company founded by C. Brian Williams conducts an annual tour of colleges and universities across the country, in between trips to such venues as Lincoln Center and the White House. On the night of Friday, April 12, the Center for the Arts at Monmouth University welcomes Step Afrika! to the Pollak Theatre stage for the first time.

Presented as part of the 2012-2013 Performing Arts series at Monmouth, the 8 p.m. performance finds artistic director Sherman and company stepping up for a mixed-bag program of short works that speak to all aspects of the African American experience – with the breathtaking dance moves augmented by vivid costumes, and that nonstop infectious beat.

There will also be a special Beginner’s Step Dance workshop with Step Afrika on Thursday, April 11 at 3:30 p.m in Anacon Hall. No experience is needed. The workshop is open to the public and is FREE for anyone who has purchased a ticket to the concert on April 12. Otherwise, there is a $20 fee to participate. For additional information on these and other events, or to purchase tickets, please contact the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889, or online at To schedule an interview, please contact Eileen Chapman at 732-571-3512.