'Divine Nine' step up their dancing
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 23:09
It became immediately obvious upon entering the theater that this was not a typical Jorgensen experience. Instead of the anticipatory silence that was the usual atmosphere before the beginning of an event, the audience at the sixth annual National Pan-Hellenic Council Step Show was an animated group. A quick scan around the auditorium showed an eclectic dress code: some were in formal wear, while others were dressed in ripped jeans and T-shirts.
The event began with an introduction of the program and a brief overview of the history of the “Divine Nine”—fraternities and sororities that have traditionally been African American. Some of the organizations have been around for about a hundred years and have endured Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement. As each of the fraternities and sororities were introduced, their members enthusiastically responded by making their signature calls. After encouraging members of the audience to tweet during the performance using the hashtag “thecomeback,” the speaker gave the stage to the MC for the night, Dukk.
“UConn’s a beautiful campus,” Dukk said to the crowd. “Seriously, I’ve never seen this many chickens and cows before.” The audience laughed and cheered, and after a few more jokes about each participating organization, the performance began in earnest.
Step-dancing is a form of dance that places most of its importance on footwork. Technically speaking, there are many step dances, including tap dance, but this particular brand of step dancing was popularized by the National Pan-Hellenic Council and has ties to African dance. By organizing competitive performances like the step show, NPHC displays African American history and culture to a wider audience.
At the Jorgensen, each performance was structured into several routines, some with music and some without. The number of performers varied sharply from organization to organization; some had around ten members on the stage, while others had fewer than five.
However, a lack of quantity did not mean a lack of quality.
“I really liked Mu Sigma Upsilon’s performance,” Jane Moran, a fifth-semester history major said, referring to a routine that only had two performers. “They were really impressive when they performed without music, and it was really too bad that they had technical difficulties during the musical part.”
Some of the more involved performances included a skit in their routine. Sigma Gamma Rho’s performers, for example, acted as if they were employees of “Forever 22” who danced when their boss wasn’t looking.
“I really enjoyed that performance,” said Anthony Virgo, who is not a student at UConn but attended the event due to his interest in the competition. “There’s still more after the intermission, but I think Sigma Gamma Rho has a chance of winning.”