Every Sunday at about 6 p.m. in Pearson Hall you’ll hear them stepping, clapping and snapping. They are the Ladies of Elegance Step Organization, and stepping is what they do.
A few weeks ago they posted signs across campus announcing the time and place for those interested in trying out for the team. They had plans of accepting new members and plunging into an event-filled school year. This was a challenge that the executive board readily accepted with their eyes wide open to scout the enthused, talented and dedicated prospective steppers.
“We’re really looking for girls who will be dedicated to the team, we need people that will come to practice and be ready,” said Treasurer Isidra Grant, senior biology major.
On Thursday, 32 potential members gathered in a room full of nerves. The newcomers were given numbers and then lined against the wall. They anticipated the start of the tryout. Number three, freshman accounting major Marceline Bien-Aime, said she was particularly nervous awaiting the tryouts. She has experience stepping but felt a “little rusty.”
“I’m anxious but excited about meeting new people and performing different places,” she said
Number 31, Asia Collington, a freshman communications major, was a little more self-assured.
“I’ve been stepping since junior year of high school,” Collington said. “I’m confident. Right now I’m messing up a bit but if I go home and practice I’ll be okay.”
Next, they spread out across the Pearson gym in three lines with old members standing in between. There was a strong focus on sharp, straight arms and precise movement; everyone had to look the same. Vice president Winter Sneed introduced the try out step as “Shaina-Chantay.” There was a clear effort but many got frustrated.
“I think they’ll bring a lot of energy, different perspectives and new ideas,” said Sneed, a junior management and information systems major, about those trying out.
Stepping is an art form that has African roots and has been made largely popular in the United States by African- American fraternities and sororities. Ladies of Elegance is Temple’s only non-Greek step team founded in 2002 by alumnae Brandi Baldwin to give students an opportunity to express themselves and have fun.
“Temple is one of the most diverse universities in the country,” Sneed said. “Stepping is another way to represent our culture. Step is an expression, same as dancing or drawing. It’s a rhythmic movement that focuses on beats and collaboration.”
The ladies work collaboratively to make up new steps and perfect older ones. They each create a movement and systematically put them together to make a unified piece.
“Our steps are made to represent different music genres, cultures and personalities,” said president Na’asia Cobb, a senior accounting major. “Some steps are named after the personality of the person that made them [like ‘Shaina-Chantay,] and others are named after the personality of the step.”
The ladies have done community service like the recent breast cancer walk and even had their own step show but this year they have even more exciting plans for the team.
“We’ll be doing a lot more in the community beyond what’s required,” Sneed said. “We’ll also be traveling to other schools for competitions . . . of course we’ll still be performing at Temple.”
The tryouts mark their first step towards an event filled school year. The newly accepted members would have to learn and perfect the older steps while also brewing some new ideas.
“So far they’re picking [the step] up fast,” Cobb said. “They haven’t mastered it yet. But within the next hour a lot of them will be Ladies of Elegance material.”
Though only 13 of 32 were accepted, both Bien-Aime and Collington were among those to join the team. They are both excited and willing to undergo the Ladies of Elegance transformation of rigorous practices and precise movements.
“Ever since I started stepping, I loved it,” Collington said after hearing the good news. “I’m just excited that I can continue doing what I enjoy. Every person on the team brings something special to the table that makes the Ladies of Elegance what they are. I feel that I can bring a great deal of positive energy and a positive vibe that all the women can benefit from.”
The executive board was pleased with the results of the tryouts and the team is expected to have an event on Halloween called “Scary-oke” (pronounced like ‘karaoke’), and “Each One Teach One,” where they teach younger children steps.
Stepping is not just an extracurricular for these women, it is a passion, which explains their motto – “step or die.”
Ariana Smith can be reached at email@example.com.