The StompDown!

Youth Impact!
by Jerome Robinson
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Stepping or step-dancing is a form of percussive dance in which the participant’s entire body is used as an instrument to produce complex rhythms and sounds through a mixture of footsteps, spoken word, and hand claps. Though stepping may be performed by an individual, it is generally performed by groups of three or more, often in arrangements that resemble military formations.
Stepping may also draw from elements of gymnastics, break dance, tap dance, march, or African and Caribbean dance, or include semi-dangerous stunts as a part of individual routines.  The tradition of stepping is rooted within the competitive schoolyard song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the 1900’s.
It also originally drew heavily from the stage routines and movements of popular R&B groups such as the Temptations and The Four Tops. During the mid-20th century, historically-black fraternities and sororities on United States college campuses traditionally sang and chanted to celebrate “crossing over” into membership of their respective organizations. Stepping is also performed by schools, churches, cheer-leading squads, and drill teams.
The StompDown Links

The StompDown Highlights

Djuan Ballinger and his production company brought their step competition to the Cannon Center. The show is called The StompDown! Teams competed for over a $1000.00 in prizes. But this show is about so much more than the stepping. It is about creating a national and international platform for the celebration of the art of stepping while also creating a place to promote the accomplishments of the teams. It is a chance to showcase the engagement and the positive impact these young people are having on their communities. The StompDown is expanding to cities all across the US. It was started in Florida and has already spread to 17 markets around the southeast and is growing fast.

I got a chance to sit down with Shericka Cunningham, the Assistant Director for the show. Shericka shared some of the highlights from the event and some of the hardships bringing the show to Memphis. Teams competing came from as far away as Tallahassee Florida. As this event grows in the Memphis market it will become a major driver for tourism to the city. The events falls on the Friday night before the Southern Heritage Classic and serves as a perfect compliment to activities going on during the Classic Weekend.

 

The Greek Category Winner: Memphis Alumni Chapter Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc.  from Memphis, TN.  In the Independent Category, the winner was the Total Complexity Step Team from Louisville, KY.  The winner for the High School Category was the Omega Lamplighters from Tallahassee, FL. Shericka said that one of the highlights of the show is definitely seeing the excitement on the performers’ faces when they arrive and during performances.

 

 

One of the challenges in bringing a show like this to Memphis is getting the endorsements and support from the major influencers of our youth. The StompDown like other events trying to create something big in the city of Memphis, are looking for better support by having community leaders and influencers getting involved, schools supporting organization with youth empowerment movements, and more corporate and small business support. The show organizers wanted to say thank you to JustMyMemphis, the Memphis Urban League, HBCU Student College Fair, and a special thanks to East High School.

Looking forward to next year, Ms Cunningham had this to say: “We will continue to cultivate the relationships within the city that have been established. The Stompdown’s overall objective is to empower the youth. We believe that next year we will give more out scholarships to students in the City of Memphis, highlight local talent on the main stage, and connect with more community leaders and businesses.” Because of the positive effect events like this have on the youth of Memphis and on our local economy, JustMyMemphis is planning on having a major role in next year’s show!

Some of our youth have no exposure to events like The Stompdown. Vision plays a major component, not only for children but for adults as well. As the old adage goes “Seeing is Believing” we want to let our youth see that there is success on all levels especially regarding the performing arts, and see their classmates receive scholarships.

What impact is The Stompdown hoping to have on the young lives in our community? That they can attend The Stompdown and say to themselves, “I can do that!” Once the seed is sown one of our missions is accomplished.

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