Lyons Township students step out in style
Shakria Cox-Norman (center) of La Grang, practices with the Steppers, an extracurricular dance program at Lyons Township High School. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:08AM
LA GRANGE — Members of the Lyons Township High School Steppers dance team need few reminders to look animated.
Their excitement and enthusiasm light up one of the school cafeterias where they are polishing their routine for the first statewide competition among step-dance teams March 2 at Oswego High School.
Resembling a drum line, they execute precise rhythmic combinations of clapping, snapping and stomping as they move into various formations like a marching band.
Abruptly, the similarity ends, when members of the competitive squad take on acting roles and shout out lines or pantomime situations in an office setting.
“There’s a plot to what we’re doing,” said La Grange sophomore Destiny Richardson. “We’re not just moving step to step to step. We’re telling a story.”
While the rest of the Steppers will wear royal blue business shirts with silver ties, Richardson will dress in a jacket for the competition as the mean boss of the office.
In the skit, LaGrange Park senior Paiton Powell rolls her eyes and flops on the floor as an expression of frustration with a co-worker’s dumb idea. But while she’s lying down, her feet are stamping in a rhythmic pattern.
“We have people doing stepping on different levels to add interest,” explained head coach and math teacher Tamiaka Killins.
In addition, two male students perform part of the routine from step ladders.
Jumping from the ladders and learning the intricate step combinations takes practice, said Brookfield senior Mario Monrroy.
“Muscle memory, repetition and practice” are the secrets to success, Monrroy said, as well as portraying vivid facial expressions.
“It helps to practice in front of a mirror,” he said. “You have to think about what face are you making while stepping, a boring face or an exciting face.”
In addition to challenging routines, being a part of the group has taught members leadership skills, patience and tolerance.
“We all have to tolerate each other even if we don’t like each other at times,” Richardson said.
Killins, who started the group in 1999, has enjoyed watching it grow from 12 African-American students to more than 100 who have tried out over the years.
“We’ve had students come out from every culture, including foreign exchange students from Bolivia and Yugoslavia, and girls from Middle Eastern heritage, who had to always wear pants,” she said. “We also have guys now and students in special education classes.”