No, I’m not about to tell you that some well known stepper is about to launch a clothing line with Lenny Kravitz or that your favorite lady stepper is really a man. Not that kind of tea. Can you believe that while talking to Detroit’s Wakeba Reid and her friend Shawn — I spilled a drink on Shawn’s knee? Talk about a crazy first impression. I’ll get to that in a second.
So I ventured out across the Hudson to the New York & New Jersey Steppers Big City Weekend event, to be specific, the Friday event on West 36th Street. I’m smart enough NOW to know that there is no need to walk from my car to the venue in my heels, especially in New York City where you don’t have the luxury or guarantee of a free parking lot or a parking space that is nearby. C’est la vie. I walked a couple of blocks and like the city girl I am and changed into my heels when I got into the lobby. (I know I could have changed shoes at the set but nah…I need to WALK up in the set with my shoes already on, you dig?)
I arrived at about 10:30 p.m. but it appeared that the dance floor didn’t start getting peppered with steppers until about 11 p.m. Perhaps people were eating the food, catching up with old friends, etc. That gave me enough time to give some sister steppers a few hugs, grab some hors d’oeuvres, and adjust the insoles and heel grips in my shoes.
There were a few cool occurrences last night and those are what prompted me to write this morning. So here they are:
1. My dance with Dominique Robinson made me feel like “one of the Beatles just asked me to dance.” I literally said that. Why the hell do I say crazy things like this? I don’t know where these comments come from. Anyway, I hope that Brother Robinson is used to my random analogies by now. But seriously, has Dominique ever asked to take YOUR hand as Felony Davis’ “Special” begins to play? OR as Bobby Womack’s “Facts of Life” comes on? Well, if so, then you understand. You feel like Courtney Cox in Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” video. Wait…is Dominique Robinson the Bruce Springsteen of steppin’? There I go with my analogies again. Thank you, we need Ebony magazine to get that cover together, Dominique (inside joke). There’s a photo of Dominique and me with some other ladies in Ashante’s phone, if I get it, I’ll add it to this post.
2. My dance with John Lucas. Lemme explain…I’m a Leo. John’s a Leo. That already means chances are I’m going to like several things about him. From what I’ve extracted from John’s larger-than-life persona (and his stature), you can’t be drifting off into LaLa Land when you’re dancing with him. Thanks for keeping me awake and indulging me, Brother John! Leos rule! Especially smart and cultured ones. 🙂 Happy birthday in advance!
3. The hugs and love from my steppin’ sisters. One of my favorite parts of the set entails the greetings that I share with my steppin’ sister whenever I walk into a set. I mean, if you are in need of good energy and hugs…become a part of a steppin’ community. You’ll get everything from “Hey, girl!” to “You look great!” and for your closer steppin’ sisters, “Girl, I have to talk to you!” or “Let me tell you who you need to dance with…” And then you know we have to take fly photos all throughout the night. I love seeing them — they are maraschino cherries of it all.
4. My babbling foolery with brother Kevin, the coolest WNBA referee I know (alright, the only one I know), during our dance. I was experiencing the heights of the effects of that one “glass” of spirits I consumed, if you will. One glass is really all about I can handle without the silly Newark slick-talking fool creeping out of my Talented Tenth self. Kevin, I know I said something about your cool shirt, the chain, and the speakeasy shoes. Thank you for the dance and for laughing at whatever nonsense I was talking about.
5. Brian. Brian. Brian. The two dances = everythang. Not everything. EveryTHANG.
6. Some dude named Roman than I never met before gave me a GREAT dance and told me he liked my energy. And that is probably why we vibed so well. You can’t be alone in your dance, in your head, disconnected from your partner. Get the hell out the Future Contest or Counting Labyrinth in your head and let’s dance. Somebody tell Roman I said thank you!
7. Meeting Rodney Mack and finally finding out the name of a song from DJ Vince! Oh my goodness, as a stepper, you know the exhaustion of trying to find out the names of the songs that catch your ear! Speaking of which, I need some Steppin’ CDs — cause you can’t find some of these remixes on YouTube (or wherever you might steal your music from).
Now the last two events were really interesting.
First, the tea-spilling. It may not have been tea. Well, I’m almost sure it wasn’t…I had just finished talking to Drewry Alexander (talk about that in a second) and saw this girl and guy I observed dancing at Stepaganza in St. Louis earlier this year. See, this is why I have to laugh at myself. Although I had read Tracey Bivens’ I Love Steppin’ interview with Wakeba Reid, I didn’t know that the “girl” was her! She had braids at Stepaganza and looked like she was in her very early 20s. I don’t know, I imagined that she was like a college junior who grew up watching her family dance or something (another bad habit, I create these stories about people in my head). The friend she was dancing with last night, Shawn was also someone I remember watching dancing in St. Louis, too. I mean they looked like two young people just having fun in the Embassy Suites lobby — I didn’t realize they had both been contest winners/competitors! I found all of this out while kickin’ it with them last night.
Now, I talk with my hands sometimes. Apparently, I like knocking over drinks on new steppin’ friends like Shawn. Yes, ya’ll. Just as I was thanking them or saying goodbye — KLUNK! Luckily, it wasn’t a lot of liquid — but I felt like Lucille Ball, trying to dry Shawn’s lap and knee with a cocktail napkin. Totally slapstick steppin’ culture right there. Thank you both for being so warm and welcoming — and gracious about the spilled drink.
Drum roll….can we talk about Drew for a second?
Last year I had taped a quick interview with Drew but the lighting was bad and I just didn’t get what I needed to due to technical issues — running out of space on my memory card, etc. But that was when I met him for the first time — last year. Since then, I’ve always enjoyed watching him dance or even just saying hello. Somebody taught that man manners. He is one of the most polite and charming steppers I’ve ever met.
Anyway, I’d never danced with him. ON PURPOSE. I prayed he would never ask me to dance — and well, with the line of women that I’m sure are always waiting for a dance — it was easy to stay under the radar. I was SCARED! Scared that I would look crazy and that he’d go home to Detroit, thinking something funky about my dance like: She can write, but her ass can’t dance! (no offense to my small crew of instructors/advisers, I know you taught me well)
When I spoke to him last night, I kinda confessed all of this. I told him that one day, though, I would be ready to dance with him. It turns out that somewhere in the cosmos, fate would have it that I would suddenly gain the confidence to ask him to dance LAST NIGHT. I don’t know where the courage came from, ya’ll. But he had just finished dancing and I simply walked up to him.
Me: Drew, do you think you might possibly be able to dance with me? (I don’t know why I turn my requests for dances into these Buckingham Palace tea-at-high noon speeches)
Drew: You ready?
Me (breathing deeply): I think I am.
Listen, that man has a gift. Yes, you all knew this. But to be able to lead a woman the way he led me in a first dance, and with such energy — yet with no rough, jerky, clavicle-shattering, hip-dislocating after effects? He is a DANCER. Not a show-off (you can’t help but look but that’s not because he’s yearning for your attention) and is with you AND the music during your dance. I had to hug him like a long-lost cousin when our dance was through.
I can’t tell you that fear isn’t going to enter your adventures in steppin’. I will say that it’s okay to fumble around with it and even wait a little while until it dissipates. But there comes a time when you should take a deep breath and step into a new dance. Let a new partner lead you (or follow you!). I think you’ll know when it’s time to be brave.
Trust me. It is worth the dance that ensues, for better or for worse. In my case — totally for the better! Thank you, Drew & safe travels with your crew back to the Midwest.
And P.S. — I am so excited about Doc and Sunshine competing in the World’s Largest Steppers Contest!
Shout out to the New York & New Jersey Chicago Steppin’ crew for feeding and entertaining us in the Big Apple! Arietta, I got you in Philly! 😉 See you soon, steppin’ friends.