By Curt Yeomans
In South Africa, there is a style of dancing called "the Boot Dance."
In America, however, the dance is referred to as "stepping." Students on the Brown Elementary School Step Team learned this while preparing for the school's "Holidays Around the World" musical production.
The Step team was one of five groups of students, and one Brown Elementary School faculty member, who participated in the annual event.
"The stage [in the school cafeteria] was set up like a large living room where a family could spend time together," said Aishah Abdullah, the chorus teacher at Brown Elementary, as well as the director and writer of the holiday program. "I wanted the setting to reflect family and friends hanging around the fireplace at Christmas."
The setting included dancing snowflakes, reindeer, a step team, a bell choir and carolers. For some of the students, the show was an opportunity to perform in front of an audience for the first time.
Jesenia Asmussen, a fifth-grader at the school, who portrayed a girl talking with friends, said she was excited about her family being in the audience. "I can show them what I can do, especially my older sister [Jade]," Asmussen said. "We're always getting into competitions against each other, but it's always just for fun."
The students rehearsed for two months, as they learned about various cultures represented in the show. In addition to learning the origins of step dances, the students were introduced to Hispanic holiday customs.
"We learned 'Feliz Navidad' means 'Merry Christmas' in Spanish," said fifth-grader Eleeya Green, who was one of the actors.
Amir Flood, a third-grader, performed the part of a folk singer for the Step team, singing lyrics such as "I've been working hard for the Brown Bear Steppers." As Flood paused between lyrics, the step team stomped their feet in unison.
"I get excited sometimes," Flood said. "I got frightened at first, because there were a lot of people [in the crowds], but now I'm used to it."
The step team, which wore black T-shirts and camouflage pants, also performed the "Stick Step" and "Lil' Man" to Soulja Boy's "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)."
The students were not the only ones who got to participate in the program. Midway through, Kimberly Edwards, a teacher at the school who works with autistic children, sang "The Christmas Song" as a soloist. Edwards, who used to sing at weddings and in churches, had not sung in over a year. Even so, she was not nervous about stepping back into the spotlight.
"I like to share my voice and touch people with my songs," she said. "The best about this is being involved with them [the children]. I'm involved with my students, but this gave me an opportunity to work with a broader group of students."
Abdullah is in her first year of teaching chorus at the school. She reflected on the months of practices that went into preparing the program, and beamed with pride for her students. "These kids are so talented and it's a pleasure to work with them," she said.
A total of 80 students from the school participated in the program.