Wilmington, DE (March 2, 2020) — Music and dance have always been closely linked, but what if your body became the music? This is the thrilling concept behind Drumfolk, the latest work from dance company Step Afrika! The Delaware Art Museum, as part of its Performance Series, is hosting Step Afrika! the week of March 29, 2020 for a residency in which the company will visit several sites in New Castle and Kent Counties for workshops, performances, and lectures.
The weeklong suite of events, which culminates in an April 3 performance of Drumfolk at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, provides an opportunity for as many Delawareans as possible to get to know Step Afrika! and this vital piece of American history. After the smash success of Step Afrika’s 2018 residency with the Delaware Art Museum, Jonathan Whitney, Manager of Performance Programs and Community Engagement, was eager to bring the company back for what is sure to be another brilliant series. “This year’s residency by Step Afrika! is a continuation of our mission to use art, in this case dance, to bring about change in our community,” says Whitney.
In Drumfolk, Step Afrika! focuses on the historical significance of rhythm, including how the forced removal of drums inspired people to use their bodies to create music as means to survive oppression. Drumfolk explores the Stono Rebellion of 1739, a revolt that took place in South Carolina, and the aftermath of that event, particularly the Negro Act of 1740, in which drums were outlawed for Africans. This birthed forms of dance in which the body became an instrument and is seen today in dances such as stepping. In fact, Drumfolk includes multiple stepping pieces, as well as other forms of dance including the Ring Shout, a centuries-old style of dance, and a new exploration of African masquerade traditions..
A particularly exciting aspect of this residency is the level of youth involvement. “Students from across New Castle and Kent Counties will experience stepping taught by members of the company,” says Whitney. “The community event in Wilmington is being planned by teens through a partnership between the Museum, Jack and Jill, Inc. New Castle County Chapter, and the Warehouse (a new space for teens by teens), giving them invaluable leadership and project management experience.”
For more information on student events and to sign up, visit https://delart.org/education/school-teacher-programs/stepafrika/. For information on the Riverside Rhythm event for teens on April 1, please visit, https://delart.org/event/riverside-rhythm-with-step-afrika/?instance_id=17883.
Step Afrika! is also heralding the return of the Museum’s extended Thursday hours with a demo performance and a spring happy hour. Heather Morrissey, the Museum’s Director of Advancement and Operations, is thrilled to welcome Step Afrika! back with this special happy hour. “What a perfect opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate! The Museum will host a special indoor happy hour with live music and a pop-up performance by Step Afrika! Be sure to join us for this entertaining evening.” However, this goes beyond entertainment. Whitney is excited that “through this work, the Museum will continue to strengthen its role as an anchor in our community.”
The Delaware Art Museum would like to thank the many partners that have been vital to creating this residency: The Grand Opera House, Delaware Institute for Arts in Education, The Warehouse, REACH Riverside, Jack and Jill, Inc., and the New Castle County Chapter Men of Color Alliance from Delaware State University.
FULL RESIDENCY EVENT SCHEDULE
Monday and Tuesday, March 29-30, 2020 – Dancers from Step Afrika! visit 20 to 30 schools for “stepping workshops” in partnership with the Delaware Institute for Arts in Education: This was a highlight from 2018’s visit. The company will be split into groups of two and three dancers to visit schools throughout New Castle and Kent Counties to give immersive stepping workshops to students.
Monday evening, March 29, 2020, 7pm – Step Afrika! performs as part of the DSU pageant, in partnership with Men of Color Alliance (MOCA)
Wednesday evening, April 1, 2020, 6 pm – Community Event “Riverside Rhythm” at The Warehouse, Wilmington, DE: This event has been planned by teens for teens. The Museum brought together teens from Jack and Jill, Inc. New Castle Chapter and The Warehouse to plan and present a community event as part of Step Afrika’s residency. Riverside Rhythm will highlight the ways the rhythm survived in Wilmington. It will include performances by local drill teams, tap dancers, and drummers followed a performance by Step Afrika! After the performances, there will be a 30-minute Q&A with Step Afrika! around life after high school, attending and applying to HBCUs, and life after college. All of the dancers in Step Afrika! are college graduates and the teens saw this as an opportunity to learn from men and women not far removed from where they are now. This will be the first major event at the Warehouse.
Thursday, April 2, 2020 – Lecture and Demonstration with excerpts from Drumfolk performances for Students at The Grand Opera House, Wilmington, DE (9:30 am and 12:30 pm): This program, which will serve approximately 2,400 students, will include excerpts from Drumfolk, combined with Step Afrika’s award-winning lecture-demonstration on the African-American percussive dance style of stepping.
Thursday, April 2, 2020 at 6 pm – Step Afrika! Happy Hour at the Delaware Art Museum: Experience Step Afrika! up close, and celebrate the Museum’s return to extended Thursday night hours with a special spring edition of our popular happy hour!
Friday, April 3, 2020 at 8 pm – Public performance of Drumfolk at the Grand Opera House, Wilmington, DE: Back by Popular demand, Step Afrika! returns to Wilmington with its blend of the percussive tradition of stepping with African and contemporary dance. The Company’s newest creation, Drumfolk, inspired by the Stono Rebellion of 1739, explores this little-known event in American history that forever transformed African-American life and culture. When Africans lost the right to use their drums, their rhythms found their way into the body of the people, the Drumfolk. New percussive forms took root leading to the development of some of our country’s most distinct performance traditions like the ring shout, tap, and stepping.
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ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE SERIES
The Delaware Art Museum’s Performance Series features bold, adventurous works from a variety of art forms. With a focus on social justice and cutting edge performance, this series brings artists to Delaware who push creative boundaries and respond to present day-events in innovative ways. Performances will take place on the Museum’s campus and out in the community.
ABOUT THE DELAWARE ART MUSEUM
For over 100 years, the Museum has served as a primary arts and cultural institution in Delaware. It is alive with experiences, discoveries, and activities to connect people with art and with each other. Originally created in 1912 to honor the renowned illustrator and Wilmington-native, Howard Pyle, the Museum’s collection has grown to over 12,000 works of art in our building and sculpture garden. Also recognized for British Pre-Raphaelite art, the Museum is home to the largest and most important Pre-Raphaelite collection outside of the United Kingdom and a growing collection of significant contemporary art.
Under the leadership of our Board of Trustees, the Delaware Art Museum is implementing a comprehensive approach to community and civic engagement. This exciting new strategic direction requires that we increase our value and relevance to all audiences. Visit delart.org to for the latest exhibitions, programs, and performances or connect with us via social media.