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. Although stepping can be performed individually, 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, tap dance, marching, African and Caribbean dance, and/or include semi-dangerous stunts as a part of individual routines. Some forms of stepping include the use of props, such as canes, rhythm sticks and/or fire and blindfolds. The tradition of African American stepping is rooted within the competitive schoolyard song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, beginning in the mid-1900s.
African American stepping finds its origins in a combination of military close-order, exhibition drill and African foot dances such as the Welly “gumboot” dance. It also originally drew heavily from the stage routines and movements of popular R&B groups such as the Temptations and The Four Tops.