Museum presents Step Afrika! March 29 through April 5, 2020


Drumfolk premieres in arts centers across the United States with performances in Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, New York, Delaware, Washington, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maryland and the District of Columbia

Washington, D.C. – Step Afrika! continues the celebration of its 25th anniversary into 2020 with an expansive national tour that highlights a newly commissioned work, Drumfolk. The piece, which is based on historical events that took place during the 1700s in the Deep South, debuts in selected arts centers and college campuses from January through November 2020. The tour also features the company’s highly anticipated return to New York City’s beloved Theater District and summer performances in venues across the Washington, D.C. area, Step Afrika!’s home base.

Drumfolk is the second work by Step Afrika! that celebrates and chronicles the African American experience in America,” shared C. Brian Williams, Founder and Executive Director. “This new production is grounded in extensive research and over 25 years of Step Afrika!’s percussive practice and investigation into the tradition of stepping. We’re thrilled to be sharing it with our audiences.”

A seminal addition to Step Afrika!’s dance canon, Drumfolk is inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739 – an uprising of 20 enslaved Africans from Angola, who used their drums to start a revolt in South Carolina. Although the rebellion was suppressed, this little-known event in American history forever changed African American life and culture. When Africans lost the right to use their drums through The Negro Act of 1740, they began to use their bodies as percussive instruments in response. This act of survival and activism earned them the name of “Drumfolk,” as coined by famed folklorist Bessie Jones, and their percussive movement gave rise to some of the country’s most distinctive art forms, including the ring shout, tap, hambone and stepping. Step Afrika!’s Drumfolk explores this pivotal moment in history and honors the succeeding cultural evolution.

Drumfolk takes audiences on a journey from the 17th century, when the African drum found itself in the then-colony of South Carolina, to present-day America, where the instrument has shaped new art forms like hip hop and African American social dance. Highlights include: Step Afrika!’s first presentation of dance and drumming traditions from Angola; an exploration of the ring shout, which is a 200+ year-old African American dance rarely seen on our country’s stages; and a contemporary routine of stepping and vocal percussion to demonstrate the drum’s influence on other mediums.

Drumfolk debuts in Eisenhower Auditorium at Penn State’s Center for the Performing Arts on January 31, 2020. The tour then travels to: Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign from February 6-7, 2020; The Soraya at California State University Northridge (Los Angeles) on February 23, 2020; the New Victory Theater in New York City from February 28-March 15, 2020; the Delaware Art Museum on April 3, 2020; Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington from May 7-9, 2020; ArtsEmerson at Emerson College from July 22-August 1, 2020; and Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa from September 14-20, 2020. Step Afrika!’s residency in each venue will include feature-length performances for the general public, as well as student matinees, master classes and workshops leading up to the aforementioned dates. The summer 2020 performances in Maryland and Washington, D.C. will be announced at a later date at


Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State/January 27-31, 2020
102 Eisenhower Road, University Park, PA 16802

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/Urbana, IL/February 4-9, 2020
500 S. Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801

The Soraya at California State University Northridge/Los Angeles, CA/ February 19-24, 2020
18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330-8448

The New Victory Theater/February 28-March 15, 2020
229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036

Delaware Art Museum/Wilmington, DE/March 29-April 5, 2020
818 North Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

Meany Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Washington/Seattle, WA/May 7-9, 2020
4040 George Washington Lane NE, Seattle, WA 98105

ArtsEmerson/Boston, MA/July 22-August 1, 2020
219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa/Iowa City, IA/September 14-20, 2020
141 East Park Road, Iowa City, IA 52242

Funding Credits

Drumfolk was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Lead Commissioning Support provided by ArtsEmerson, Hancher Auditorium, Eugene Lang Foundation and the Strathmore Performing Arts Center. Additional support provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, The New Victory Theater, Delaware Art Museum, Meany Center for the Performing Arts, The Soraya and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

About Step Afrika!

Founded in 1994 by C. Brian Williams, Step Afrika! is the world’s first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping—a polyrhythmic, percussive dance form that uses the body as an instrument. Step Afrika! promotes stepping as a contemporary dance genre through critically-acclaimed performances and arts education programs. Creatively engaging audiences in this nascent art form, the Company creates new full-length productions that expand on stepping’s unique American history.

With 14 full-time dancers and administrative team of 6, Step Afrika! is one of the top 10 U.S. African American dance companies. The Company reaches thousands each year through a 50-city tour of American colleges and theaters and performs globally as an official U.S. Cultural Ambassador. New work, such as The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence and Drumfolk, tour to major U.S. cities. Step Afrika! is featured at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture with the world’s first interactive stepping exhibit.

Media relations for Step Afrika!

Camille Cintrón Devlin/Bucklesweet

Amanda Sweet/Bucklesweet