Using no instruments -- just their bodies and techniques like stepping, saluting, cracking, and freaking -- teams of steppers perform choreographed pieces that seem like a cross between a cheerleading routine, a military drill, a tap dance, and an a cappella show on andro. These synchronized, percussive dances, which incorporate traditional African rhythms, are often led by a step master who leads in a call-and-response interaction with the rest of the team. Cracking refers to teams' parodying one another's styles, which serves as a dare and adds drama to the competition. Freaking means to improvise during the routine -- but too much freaking can mess up the synchronization, which teams don't want to do, especially when they're competing for nearly $5,000 in cash.
The Sunshine State Classic is one of the biggest events of its kind in the Southeast. This year's contestants include two sororities (Alpha Kappa Alpha, from Florida Memorial College, and Delta Sigma Theta, from FAU) and four fraternities (last year's champions, Iota Phi Theta, from the University of Florida; Kappa Alpha Psi, also from UF; Sigma Phi Beta, from Florida Memorial; and Omega Psi Phi, a group of graduate students from various schools.) Teams will be judged by a panel of six Greeks and one non-Greek using criteria of enthusiasm, coordination, and implementation of the theme -- which, by the way, is "Love, Peace & Soul." Even the planners won't know what to expect until a secret rehearsal on Friday, during which they will screen for any "wardrobe malfunctions."
You already owe event organizer Sasha Oqueli big-time for helping bring Outkast's Big Boi to FAU earlier this month, but you might want to thank her again (or try to become her new best friend). As FAU's student government culture chair coordinator, she's organized additional mega-entertainment around the stepping. Comedian/poet Shang -- who has been featured on HBO's Def Comedy Jam, has taped two comedy specials for BET and has costarred on The Jamie Foxx Show -- will fly in from Los Angeles to serve as host. Also featured are three opening acts: Squad Up, a co-ed hip-hop dance team; R-Styl, a local R&B group; and Pop Starz Kids, a hip-hop dance group that has opened for B2K. Buy your tickets in advance -- not only because Oqueli expects a sellout crowd but because prices jump from $10 to $15 on the day of the show ($7 for FAU students). Call the University Center box office at 561-297-3737, or visit www.ticketmaster.com. -- Deirdra Funcheon